The city of Nairobi, capital of Kenya, is the heart of Kenyan urban life. With an ever-growing population, Nairobi has seen the emergence of numerous challenges such as poverty, overpopulation, corruption, insecurity and pollution. In his work, artist Kamwathi Peterson Waweru focuses on the social issues affecting his community and the world as a whole.
Born in 1980 in Nyeri, Kenya, Kamwathi Peterson Waweru is a renowned self-taught artist who is highly regarded on the African contemporary scene. His work is richly symbolic, with clear conceptual elements offering viewers a captivating visual insight into the realities of everyday life. He says: “I see myself as part of my society and, as such, I am accountable to society. Being an artist in this society goes beyond my immediate environment and extends to the whole world. In my work, I strive to address and document the issues that affect and influence my country, my continent and now the planet.” Kamwathi Peterson Waweru is recognized as a major name in contemporary African art for the insightfulness of his work.
Kamwathi Peterson Waweru focuses his creations on political, environmental and social issues, according to the specific concerns of the moment. The symbols depicted in his works appear as a set of codes to be deciphered in order to access the subject addressed by his canvas. These symbols or motifs have a local or universal meaning, guiding the people indexed by these canvases to become aware of the message conveyed, and at the same time keeping a stranger to the situation in total ignorance in front of a work of art with curious colors and motifs.
Initially recognized as a specialist in printmaking, the self-taught artist broadened his artistic technique by turning to the creation of a series of charcoal and mixed media works, of which the installation “Sitting Allowance” is the introductory result. Kamwathi Peterson Waweru‘s work provides an insight into Kenya’s past electoral realities between 2007 and 2008. He also devotes much of his work to the iconography and process of Kenya’s first constitutional referendum in 2005, which he presents through a woodcut. In a series of works, he uses the bull as the main symbol to represent his homeland and the issues that came to the fore during this important period in its history, marked by a sense of isolation and despair.
The self-taught artist has taken part in numerous exhibitions in Africa and around the world. His paintings have been shown in solo and group exhibitions in Kenya, Senegal, Rwanda, Egypt, South Africa, the UK, the USA, Germany, Holland, Austria, El Salvador, Mauritius and Finland. Kamwathi Peterson Waweru has also taken part in numerous artist residencies in Africa, Europe and America, and was part of the Kenyan national pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017. He also participated in the 2019 Young Congo Biennale in Kinshasa, Congo DRC.
Kamwathi Peterson Waweru creates in a universal postcolonial context the study of social, political, economic and cultural community commitments. These canvases provide information on the realities and challenges of the Kenyan community, but also on the issues facing the international population. In this way, her contemporary artistic exploration does not focus solely on the difficulties of her community, but takes on a global scope, reflecting the sad realities of the world with dark motifs and colors.