Samuel Wanjau (Kenyan, 1938–2013)
Untitled (Lady Smoking), circa late 1990s
22 x 61.5 x 25.8 cm
Sold Ksh 422,640
Provenance: private collection
Samuel Wanjau is undoubtedly one of Kenya’s most revered and influential sculptors. Born in Nyeri on the family farm, he left school to join a carver’s cooperative in Mombasa and later in Nairobi. When Independence came, he started producing curios for the tourist market. On meeting Elimo Njau, of Paa Ya Paa Arts Centre, he began to explore new styles and techniques away from the tourist market he had been catering for and developed a highly personal style that conveyed powerful emotion in the everyday figures and animals he carved.
Wanjau exhibited widely in East Africa and internationally including in Sweden, the UK, Canada, the USA and Italy.
His influence on the second generation of sculptors, which includes both of his sons – Jackson and Anthony – and his grandson, has been profound. His work, and career, is emblematic of a time when artists were breaking away from the mass production of co-operatives and finding their individual voices.
This work shows the humour and affection he had for his characters, the reclining woman enjoying her cigarette is typical of the work that he did in later years, of people going about their daily activities.