By Iminza Keboge
Published March 2, 2016
Richard Onyango, noted for his “retrospective works”, shall from March 13, 2016 receive a six-month exhibition in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.
He may have been born in 1960, but National Museums of Kenya and Murumbi Trust have chosen to feature him in their ‘Pioneer Artists of East Africa’ series that hey run at Nairobi Gallery at the junction of Uhuru Highway and Kenyatta Avenue in the Nairobi Central Business District.
The curators of the exhibition present Onyango as someone who has always been fascinated with buses and vehicles of all kinds. They say this may have occurred when he moved with his mechanic father from the western Kenya to the coastal region of Malindi. He even creates replicas of ferries, tractors and life-size airplanes using trash and scraps collected by street children.
Onyango, who confesses he always wanted to be a pilot, is said to have worked as a driver, farmer, carpenter, fashion designer, wood carver, sign painter, jazz musician and animal trainer before he started painting at the age of 20. The career switch, say the curators of his exhibition, was encouraged and shaped by some Italian supporters of art and a local businessman and art collector named Feisal Osman.
Having studied painting at the age of 16, Onyango developed a vocabulary of “photo pictures” in his mind to which he still refers in his recent paintings. He met his European girlfriend, a voluptuous Italian woman named Drosie while working as a young artist; he produced his most famous series of works on their brief love affair. The paintings are snapshots or a slice of life during his more flamboyant days.
Onyango, who had his first exhibition in the West in 1992 where his works received good reviews, has a remarkable following there. Besides having his work in Contemporary African Art Collection (CAAC) In Geneva (Switzerland) and in galleries and museums in USA and UK, Onyango’s paintings have been exhibited at Venice Biennale and Africa Remix.