Cheers! Web­ster shows por­traits of new found friends

The East African - - MAGAZINE -

A painter who be­came a good friend of East African art and its cre­ators is hold­ing his first solo show in Lon­don.

Dale Web­ster moved re­cently from Nairobi — his home for the past 12 years — to cos­mopoli­tan Har­ringay, in the English cap­i­tal.

Once there, he quickly made a new group of friends at his lo­cal pub and by way of an in­tro­duc­tion, he set to and painted them.

The re­sult is an ex­hi­bi­tion on through­out this month at the fash­ion­able Brouhaha wine and sushi bar in Green Lanes, Har­ringay, run by the broth­ers Paresh and Dipesh Karia who co­in­ci­den­tally (or not) are from Kisumu. It is of some 20 por­traits, which I have seen only in re­pro­duc­tion, but seem to bear an ex­tra help­ing of Web­ster’s hall­mark hon­esty and deft char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion. They are of the sort of peo­ple you would be likely to meet in, well, your lo­cal North Lon­don pub.

Web­ster told me he was moved by their in­tro­spec­tion and al­though they were liv­ing in one of the most pros­per­ous cities in the world when they sat for their por­traits they, re­veal­ingly, ap­peared con­sumed by their wor­ries.

Web­ster came to Kenya from the UK where he taught art his­tory but he was no stranger to Africa, hav­ing ear­lier lec­tured in phi­los­o­phy at the Uni­ver­sity of Sierra Leone, in the coun­try’s cap­i­tal, Free­town.

Once in Nairobi, Web­ster quickly made his mark with a show of around 20 paint­ings in acrylics on pa­per of Maa­sai peo­ple he had met at the vil­lage of Ol Tepesi off the Ma­gadi Road.

Ex­hi­bi­tions fol­lowed at Brae­burn School where his daugh­ters were stu­dents and at the old Le Rus­tique restau­rant, in Gen­eral Ma­thenge Road, where he hung an­other suite of por­traits of his Maa­sai friends.

Shows fol­lowed an­nu­ally, in­clud­ing one of Kenyans liv­ing with HIV, which be­came part of an ex­hi­bi­tion in the Brunei Gallery at the School of Ori­en­tal and African Stud­ies of the Uni­ver­sity of Lon­don,

Web­ster then made paint­ings of house and gar­den staff, which were ex­hib­ited at Le Rus­tique and went on to com­plete a se­ries fea­tur­ing lo­cal artists, gallery own­ers and col­lec­tors, which was shown to ac­claim at the Red Hill Gallery in 2016.

It proved to be his swan­song in Kenya but now Web­ster is back in the game with his show at the Brouhaha wine bar.

And for any vis­it­ing Kenyans, he promised, the drinks are on him.

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