What you need to know:
- Nani Croze of Kitengela Glass has a metal and glass ‘African Cock’ there, as well as a ‘Glass Fish’.
- And Joseph Bertiers has two pieces – a mixed media sculpture of a woman carrying a water pot, called ‘From the Lake’, and a metal ‘Video Journalist of the Year, 2019’.
I stopped using the word ‘magical’ some years ago when someone advised me that I was overusing it. I was. But now I am going to use it again.
Last Sunday I went along to Carol Lees’ One Off Contemporary Art Gallery in the Rosslyn Lone Tree Estate, Nairobi. It truly is a magical place.
It is not just because the gallery has an excellent collection of artworks – a treasure trove of art. It is also the setting. Something about it reminds me of illustrations in the fairy story books I read as a young child.
From the rustic car park, you follow round paving stones through a tunnel of trees, until you reach the Sculpture Garden – two acres planted with indigenous trees and flowering shrubs. Carol Lees says the initial objective was to create a 'salad bowl' for a colobus monkey family and to attract birds and butterflies.
But the garden also soon became an art project; it is now happily peopled with many sculptures. I was especially pleased to see works by three artist friends of mine. Nani Croze of Kitengela Glass has a metal and glass ‘African Cock’ there, as well as a ‘Glass Fish’.
Irene Wanjiru has a stone ‘Basin ya Ndege’. And Joseph Bertiers has two pieces – a mixed media sculpture of a woman carrying a water pot, called ‘From the Lake’, and a metal ‘Video Journalist of the Year, 2019’.
The paving stones lead on and down to the buildings where the main gallery is housed. It has works by the 15 artists from East Africa that One Off exclusively represents. Among them is Florence Wangui, who is currently working on charcoal drawings of chickens. ‘I am learning from them,’ she says. ‘I am relating them to us humans.’
There is Peter Ngugi, who learnt how to paint in his spare time when working as a shoe salesman in Limuru. Now he is perhaps best known for his realistic painting in oils – his small conversation groups of men or women. And then there is Timothy Brooke, whose paintings are delicately evocative of Kenya’s landscapes, people and wildlife.
There are so many other associated artists on display – and the price range of their works is invitingly wide. Currently, the Christmas Exhibition is still running – described as ‘previously un-shown works from a selection of well known artists’. Actually, it ends today! So if you have a forgotten present still to buy, you can hurry along for some really unusual possibilities at One Off.
What follows is an exhibition called ‘Yellow’ – a selection from an open call for artworks of any media or size on the theme of Yellow. Along with it will be a photographic exhibition, also based on an open call.
The gallery has an excellent website (www.oneoffafrica.com), which introduces all the exclusively represented artists and shows many of their works. It also tells us that in September 2011, Departures Magazine listed One Off in their ‘black book’ as one of the 10 best things to do in Nairobi — ‘on a gorgeous five-acre property you’ll find work by Kenya’s more established artists’.
Last Sunday, I had coffee and a chat with Carol. I told her that some years ago I asked Joseph Mbatia why he had chosen to give himself the European name, Bertiers. ‘Well, people don’t take African artists seriously,’ he said. But Carol said that is no longer the case. The success of her gallery is proof of that.
To get to One Off, you take the Limuru Road, past Village Market, past the Runda turnoff, and, after 400 metres, take the left into Rosslyn Road, which is opposite the Rosslyn Riviera Mall. At the T-junction, turn right along Rosslyn Lone Tree Estate Road and, after 800 metres, the gallery is well signposted on the left at number 16.
Take your walking shoes; take children, yes, because they will love the five-acre garden. But take no pets – Carol has 28 of them, somewhere.