“My work is an attempt at depicting the different issues that impact on my society and me and, at times, issues that affect the world as a whole. These issues are social, political or environmental, depending on the specific concerns at the given time.”
Arguably the Kenyan artist with the highest international profile among those still resident in Kenya, Kamwathi has recently sold his work to the British Museum. He has exhibited throughout the world and has participated in residencies in many places.
A career which started in the study of animation and went on to print-making offers a possible explanation for the use of dense charcoal as a medium of choice for his pivotal Sitting allowance series: an eight part body of work produced on a monumental scale (each 8’ x 5’) in response to the violent Kenyan election of 2007/8.
Kamwathi’s most significant production occurs in several series or clusters as he likes to refer to them: Bulls, Donkeys, Sheep, ‘Sitting Allowance’, and Queues including his works on the new Kenyan Constitution. Earlier work tended to use animals to convey strongly nuanced political messages whilst an ever present thread running through his recent work is his ongoing investigation into the cultural, social, economic and, most importantly, political parameters which shoe-horn society into the ubiquitous queue. What started as a study of slave trains, themselves a type of queue, grew to encompass the voting public, riot police, demonstrating students, judicial arbitrators, medical personnel, politicians and ultimately, the internally displaced.
He lives in Kiambu, Kenya.
Selection of works
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Kamwathi has had four solo exhibitions to date and his work has been exhibited in Kenya, the UK, the USA, Holland, Austria, El Salvador and Finland. Most recently he has exhibited in a joint exhibition at the Frost Museum in Miami.
2016 - "Constellations and Sediment II: The void" - One Off Contemporary Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya
2013 - One Off Contemporary Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya
2010 - included in DAK’ART 2010, 9th Biennal of Contemporary Art, Dakar, Senegal
2010 - included in major group exhibitions at the Brot Kunsthalle, Vienna, Austria
2009 - Goethe-Institut, Nairobi, Kenya
2008 - The GoDown Art Centre, Nairobi, Kenya
2008 - “Africa Now: Emerging talent from a continent on the move”, World Bank headquarters, Washington DC.
2005 - Tuska Center for Contemporary Art, Art Department at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, USA
2004 - Visual Arts Department, University of Long Island Brooklyn Campus, Brooklyn, USA
2002 - Ngong Racecourse Restaurant, Nairobi, Kenya
Kamwathi has been awarded numerous artist residencies:
2012 - Civitella Ranieri fellow
2011 - Sommerakademie Zentrum Paul Klee
2010 - DAK’ART, the Rijksakademie van beeldende kunsten, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
2009 - Art Omi International Art Center, New York, USA
2008, 2009 - Nairobi Art Trusts’ Amnesia conversations and the jet-lag experiment project
2006 - Thupelo international artist workshop in Rorkes Drift, South Africa
2006 - Bath Spa University College, UK
2005 - Kenya Artists in Residence Program at the University of Kentucky
2004, 2006 and 2008 - Wasanii International Artists Workshop
2003 - Participated in the Fontys Academie Kenya-Holland Exchange
EastAfrican - 10-09-2016 - Migrants who step out into the void
Business Daily - 8-09-2016 - Kamwathi’s Sh1m painting graces One Off gallery
EastAfrican - 23-08-2014 - From Kenya to the US with love
EastAfrican - 22-08-2014 - What’s next in line from the queue artist?EastAfrican - 5-12-2011 - Islam recognised, celebrated
EastAfrican - 3-09-2011 - Spate of thefts hits East African art world
Peterson Kamwathi is exclusively represented in East Africa by One Off