Francis Kahuri (Kenyan, born 1946)
Paty Preparation, undated
Signed ‘F.Kahuri’ (lower right)
Oil on canvas
59.5 x 80 cm
Ksh 240,000 – 330,000
(US$) 2,200 – 3,000
Provenance: Private collection
Like other artists of his generation, Francis Kahuri’s work draws largely on the traditions of his community, his paintings depict the cultural practices and oral history of the Agikuyu. Initially working as an insurance salesman, Kahuri’s first foray into art making came through an encounter with batik making through a neighbour. Kahuri took up the craft, finding a market for his creations and eventually quitting his job to take it up full time. A meeting with veteran artist Elimo Njau led to Kahuri’s introduction to a wider artistic world where he felt encouraged to expand his skills further.
Kahuri eventually learned how to work with oils on canvas, but the expense of the materials discouraged him so he continued to make batiks predominantly, and with relative commercial success. In 1984, Ruth Schaffner of Gallery Watatu brought Kahuri into the Gallery Watatu stable, and encouraged him to focus on his oil painting. So began the second phase of his career, where he created much of the work for which he is now known. Scenes of domestic life and the mutual support provided by community; the idyll of simple traditional culture described in flattened, somewhat distorted forms against textured backgrounds became the defining quality of Kahuri’s oeuvre.
Alongside exhibitions in Nairobi, Kahuri’s work has travelled to exhibitions in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, the USA and Japan. For his subjects as well as his distinct style, Kahuri remains one of the artists whose work forms the bedrock of Kenyan modern art.