Akseli Gallen-Kallela returns to Kenya

Written By: Claire Wanja/Release

Akseli Gallen-Kallela
Now, over 100 years later, his works are to be exhibited for the first time in the country they were created in.

‘A great desert full of life, and in the distance, great mountains where antelopes roam . . . I saw the snowy peak of Kilimanjaro, and started painting.’ – Akseli Gallen-Kallela.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931), one of Finland’s most renowned artists, travelled to East-Africa with his family, in what is now Kenya, in 1909.

They lived on the outskirts of Nairobi, in current Mathare, painting, travelling, and collecting both natural and ethnographic artefacts.

Now, over 100 years later, his works are to be exhibited for the first time in the country they were created in.

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In celebration of the 2017 centenary of Finnish independence, the Gallen-Kallela Museum and the Embassy of Finland in Nairobi are producing the “GALLEN-KALLELA IN KENYA” exhibition on Akseli Gallen-Kallela’s trip and the art it inspired at the Nairobi National Museum.

The exhibition is based on reproduced materials, paintings and photographs.

In Kenya Gallen-Kallela painted a large amount of compact, brightly coloured and expressive works. He rediscovered the joy of painting in the country: ‘This is where all the world’s artists should be! I am walking in a stupor, drunk on beauty,’ he exclaimed in a letter to Wenzel Hagelstam.

Taideavain (Art-key)

The exhibition will also be the launch event of the the Gallen-Kallelan Museum’s Taideavain (Art-key) web application. The application will follow in the footsteps of the Gallen-Kallela family on a map of Kenya, and offer context on the exhibited works.

The exhibition and Taideavain/Art-key will also serve as a conversation starters. The museum’s goal is to learn and supplement its knowledge of the family’s travels in Kenya and the artefacts they gathered there.

Taideavain will encourage visitors to comment and share their knowledge. We hope for it to be a communal platform, through which the museum can learn more about the artefacts in their collection from the people from whose culture and history they belong to. At the same time, Taideavain will improve accessibility to historical and cultural documents.

In January 2018 the museum will expand its work with Kenyans on the Kenyan materials in their collection. Taideavain is supported by the city of Espoo, Finland, and the work in Kenya will form a part of the wider Young Talents of Kisumu youth project supported by the city.

The exhibition will run in the Nairobi National Museum 22.11 – 15.12.2017


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