Kaloki Nyamai

Born in 1985 in Kitui, Kenya, Kaloki Nyamai moved at an early age to the capital of Nairobi, where he currently resides. His first creative inspirations were his mother, who worked in fashion, and his grandmother, who was a musician. It was his mother who first taught him how to draw while his grandmother would narrate stories history books do not tell. These varied early inspirations are reflected in Nyamai’s multidisciplinary repertoire, as a student of interior design and film, who later taught art classes before dedicating himself to his visual art practice.

Drawing heavily on the stories of the Kamba people his grandmother recounted, Nyamai explores how identity, and the perception of the self is inflected by the past, present, and future. He works with multiple media, layering each work with rich textures that reveal various figures and abstract forms. These representations present an alternative to the flat, one-dimensional identities that are the legacy of colonialism. Nyamai turns to these textured, layered interpretations of the self and time as an antidote to the singular narrative of History that is taught as the definitive account of Kenya and its people. These works speak to daily life, past events, what justice has come to mean, and the political faultlines of postcolonial Kenya. Commenting on his own lived experience or stories that he has been entrusted with, Nyamai sees his work as part of a lineage of storytelling his grandmother and other ancestors practiced, passing on tales from one generation to another to produce an understanding of history that is complex, plural, and contradictory. His art often depicts fragments of forms that must be pieced together slowly. The viewer is called on to search through and make connections between forms, which mimics the artist’s creative process as well as how one would sift through and make meaning of the many histories storytelling produces.

Nyamai pursued formal training at the Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts (BiFA), and has since exhibited in a number of solo and group exhibitions in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, the United Kingdom, France, Switzerland, Germany, and Spain. In recognition of his talent, his work has been shown at the Kampala Biennale, Dakar Biennale, Art Paris, and the Venice Biennale

Works in the collection