By Ogova Ondego
Published April 15, 2016
She fled to the British Kenya Colony to escape war in Europe, not to look for a career or status. But her work in the fields of art, culture and conservation has turned her into an icon, a legend around whom tales of adventure are told.
Yes, an exhibition paying tribute to the young woman who arrived in Kenya as Friederike Victoria Gessner (1910-1980) and became Joy Adamson the painter, writer, conservationist and publicist, opens at Nairobi National Museum (NNM) on April 20, 2016.
Can you have enough of Joy Adamson?
No, you can’t. Especially not if you run a museum, a gallery or a school.
Joy Adamson may sound very much like a mythical figure that only exists in one’s mind. But her paintings of plants, people and landscapes put her in the realm of history: she was born in Czech Republic and migrated to Kenya at the age of 27. Here, she lived, loved, worked and died some 43 years later. She lives on. Through her paintings, line drawings, books and ideas.
The Legacy of Joy Adamson II, the exhibition that opens at Nairobi’s house of culture in five days, shall show what Lydia Gatundu-Galavu, the Curator of the show, describes as “57 more pieces of Joy’s paintings of the people, plants and animals of Kenya.”
This is a follow up to The Legacy of Joy Adamson Exhibition, another show of watercolour paintings on Kenya’s cultures and environmental conservation that ran at NNM’s Hall of Kenya for a year from May 19, 2014.
Joy Adamson’s paintings, books and lectures not only documented her work but also gave enormous publicity of Kenya to the entire world. Her book titled Born Free, for instance, was translated into various languages. It was also adapted into an Oscar Award-winning movie.
The self-taught portrait artist is reported to have painted more than 700 portraits of women and men in Kenya. Among the images Adamson drew are of members of communities such as the Boni, the Boran, the Giriama, the Idakho, the Isukha, the Kikuyu, the Kisa, the Kuria, the Luo, the Maasai and the Tugen. While many of these paintings are on exhibition at NNM, others appear in books such as Peoples of Kenya.