Kaloki Nyamai Kenyan, b. 1985


In Kaloki Nyamai’s work we are invited to question what it is to truly be in ownership of anything - borders, language, time and even self. His latest body of work, a series of large-scale works, mirrors the complexity of translation through compositions of multiple figures whose features and expressions feel familiar, and a vibrant yet subdued colour palette which from piece to piece, borrow from one another, making a starting point indistinguishable – much like cyclical time. Densely layered, the historical and current moments signalled to reveal our collective and individual experiences prompting us to further ask whether we are truly moving forward or indeed backwards.


Words by Péjú Oshin.


The Artist says of his practice “I think of my work as an open, multilayered conversation through which I question identity and how the tensions between past, present and future affect the way we are perceived and perceive ourselves to be. By layering and experimenting with different mediums, people, animals and abstract forms are revealed, working as symbols that help us look beyond the History we are taught in school, to the rich, often contradictory history made up of the stories of our ancestors shared directly, generation after generation, that took place before and without colonialism. It is only within and through these stories that we can begin the process of layering and texturing the flat identities provided to us by an education burdened by colonialism and its legacy.”


Kaloki Nyamai (b. 1985,  Kitui, Kenya) currently lives and works in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. His first inspirations were his mother, who worked in fashion, and his grand-mother, who was a musician. It is his mother who first taught him how to draw and his grand-mother who would recount the stories history books do not tell. Drawing heavily on the stories of the Kamba people he was told by his grand-mother, Nyamai – a multidisciplinary artist who studied interior design, film and taught art classes before dedicating himself to his craft – explores how history and identity are intertwined. His works are multimedia and characterized by rich layers, offering fragments to be pieced together slowly. The lengthy, searching process employed in the making of the works is mirrored in the experience of viewing them. His work has been presented in fairs and exhibitions in Africa and Europe. In 2018, he participated in the third edition of the Kampala Biennale, curated by Simon Njami, with a monumental installation.

Art Fairs