Meek Gichugu (Kenyan, birth date unknown)
Untitled (Brother wise hooking wisdom & freedom), circa 1992
Signed ‘Meek gichugu’ (lower right)
Oil on canvas
120 x 128.8 cm
Ksh 400,000 – 450,000
(US$) 4,200 – 4,750
Provenance: Direct from the artist via Banana Hill Gallery

Born in Ngecha on the outskirts of Nairobi, the village of artists, John Mburu Njenga ‘Meek’ Gichugu’s adopted name, ‘Meek’, belies the strangeness and phantasmagoric quality that so distinguishes his work from that of his contemporaries. While he did not receive any formal training in art, Gichugu developed his interest from a young age, and faithfully cultivated his skills, painting throughout his childhood, spurred on by the example of other artists from Ngecha. Committed to being a professional artist, at just 22 years old in 1991, Gichugu was the subject of a highly successful solo exhibition at Gallery Watatu, then the foremost gallery in Nairobi.

Working primarily in oil on canvas, with a palette largely comprising restrained earth tones shot through with bold reds and occasional blues, Gichugu’s paintings are fantastic worlds in which peculiar hybrid assemblages masquerading as beasts traipse through desolate landscapes, often carrying with them or entangled in familiar objects. Gichugu brings together the real and the extraordinary in combinations that are heavy with both pointed and subtle symbolism and allegory.

Following the great sensation that met his work so early in his career and the success that came in the decade that followed, Gichugu has maintained his distinct style. In 1999 he relocated to France and his output diminished significantly. However, almost three decades since his roaring debut, Gichugu’s work continues to have an otherworldly pull not matched by many of his contemporaries. This painting is an example of some of his strongest work; it has been cleaned and comes with a condition report.