Kenyan artist showcases culture in exhibit

By Ellen Masters

The UK Department of Art and the Ruth Hunt Wood Foundation will present artwork of Jimnah Kimani beginning with a reception on Thursday from 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Tuska Gallery inside the Fine Arts Building.

Kimani is the latest artist to take part in the UK Kenyan Artist-in-Residence program, now in its tenth year. His art will be on display from Nov. 18 to Dec. 10. The artwork he has produced this semester is enough to fill the entire Tuska Gallery, said Benjamin Withers, chairperson of the art department at UK.

“This is an excellent opportunity for the community to be exposed to images and ideas from another culture,” said Jane Andrus, student affairs coordinator for the Department of Art.

Kimani, born in Mombasa in 1974, is known for using bright colors and caricature-like people in his art. He started painting in 1993 and has never looked back, though he did odd jobs until his art career exploded onto the African art scene.

“Most of Kimani’s work is 2-D, but he has ventured into mixed-media art. His work is also characterized by thick brush strokes and the exaggerated features of his subjects,” Withers said.

“I can’t say I’m inspired by anyone in particular,” Kimani said. “I like different things about different artists, and my work is a combination of everything I like. I’m mostly inspired just by my life.”

He plans on returning home to Kenya after the semester.

Withers said Kimano has the opportunity to interact with students and the UK community through living in a north campus dorm.

“Not only do we get to see his culture through his art, he gets to experience ours by living and interacting with the students,” Withers said.

UK alum Ruth Hunt Wood, founder of the Ruth Hunt Wood Foundation, scouted him. Wood travels to Kenya each summer, meets with a panel in Nairobi and chooses an aspiring Kenyan artist to take part in UK’s program, Withers said.

Andrus said Wood’s foundation covers all expenditures for the program, even the refreshments for the reception.

The exhibition is free and open to the public during normal gallery hours, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 6 p.m.

A lecture by Kimani is planned for Friday at noon in the Fine Arts Building as part of the program. He will discuss his life, his art and how he became the man he is today.