Joel Oswaggo (Kenyan, born 1944)
Beer Drinking Ceremony (Luo Culture), 1998
Signed ‘J.Oswaggo’ (lower right)
Mixed media on paper
33 x 40.3 cm
Ksh 90,000 – 140,000
(US$) 870 – 1,360
Provenance: direct from the artist

Sold Ksh 176,100

Born in 1944 in South Nyanza, Joel Oswaggo began drawing as a boy, intrigued by the illustrations he saw in schoolbooks and replicating them on the walls of his home. He grew up in a time of significant transition for the Luo people, with Western culture gaining increasing influence. As a young man, Oswaggo worked for a period as a sign board painter in Uganda, before returning home during the regime of Idi Amin in the 1970s. He became part of the group of artists supported and promoted by Gallery Watatu owner, Ruth Schaffner, who recognized the skill and importance of his work, recording and narrating many of the disappearing legends and cultural traditions of his Luo community.

Of the scene in this piece, Oswaggo writes: ‘Two or three months after harvesting, a special ceremony must be performed to celebrate the good and successful work that has brought plenty of grain home. An old man is the first to taste the sweetness of the beer and to open the ceremony, before many villagers join.’

Oswaggo was featured in the seminal exhibition, Seven Stories about Modern Art in Africa, at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1995 and its accompanying book.