Joseph Mbatia Bertiers’ brilliant rendering of social art captures the Kenyan scene focussing on the everyday lives of the wananchi as they strive to make a living, and contend with all the personages and factors which impact their struggle for survival. Giving the works of art a time frame of electioneering and politicking adds an historical dimension to this fascinating display of large and smaller oil painted canvasses and scrap metal sculptures. The closely crowded interaction of humans, animals, structures, forms of transport, etc. tell colourful and intricate stories; the impishly recomposed sayings add humour and fun.
The Alliance Francaise in Nairobi must be commended for exhibiting Joseph Mbatia’s art, and for extending the viewing period. With a diploma in commercial art, Joseph Mbatia started off as a sign writer – cum painter in a local market; he won his first major award in 2005 during the contemporary Art in Kenya juried competition/exhibition, supported by the French – German cultural cooperation Fund. The prize included a grand tour of the two European countries where he visited major art galleries and museums. The same year he was among the top 10 award – winning artists at Dakar and travelled to Senegal. He has been to Scandinavia where his art was part of the ‘Africa Now’ mobile art exhibition that went from Denmark to Norway and Finland, and the US where he has had several exhibitions. His work continues to feature in international art auctions and galleries.
A prophetic in-law and an American art collector have been the major promoters of Mbatia’s artistic talent, the Kenyan working class are his inspiration. His colourful pictorial commentary and satirical view of the Kenyan Political Circus over the years makes this art exhibition like no other.