1 August 1982, the failed military coup staged by the Kenyan Air Force became the harbinger of a sharp downturn in the already rather smudged scenario of Kenya’s fledgling democracy. The Moi-KANU dictatorship instituted a de facto single-party rule and made it virtually impossible for any protest or demand to be voiced, written or alluded to.
I was a member of an underground cell whose goal was the return of multi-partyism and an ideological shift in the future. Art and culture were one of the avenues that comrades identified as a tool for politicising and mobilising Kenyans and progressive artists in Nairobi and elsewhere took up the challenge. Politically it was also a relatively ‘safe’ medium unlikely to draw the attention of the Special Branch.
I painted mainly in oils and my first painting had a feminist topic – The Oppression and Liberation of women. I then moved on to ‘recording’ actual events in our country’s history which depicted the resistance against injustice mounted by patriotic Kenyans and visionary leaders. All these paintings capture the resistance by the people. This required reading and research and was a collective effort though the actual artwork was mine.
The paintings were matched with lengthy captions which explained the historical circumstances of the event and were exhibited in church halls and school premises in Mombasa where I resided.