The Lamu Painters Festival is about exchanges – artistic, cultural, personal – between very different worlds.
These men and women, all of whom work in European realist and impression styles, were invited to Lamu to celebrate through their work the unique landscape, life and traditions of the island.
For two weeks the artists could be seen painting, mostly outdoors, at different spots throughout the Lamu Archipelago. Whether in the sandy lanes of Shela village, the bustle of Lamu market, or the remote bygone setting of Pate Island, the artists mingled with the locals as they worked.
The festival organizers hosted various activities that enabled the people of Lamu to share their culture with the visiting artists. These included a dhow race, and artistic competitions like hat and mask making. There was also a focus on introducing artists to the iconic Swahili architecture, and the great tradition of dhow building, in Lamu.
This immersion in the daily life and traditions of Lamu gave the artists plenty of opportunity to get to know the island, and capture its many aspects in paintings and sculptures that will take the spirit of this special place to the wider world.
For the people of Lamu the festival has been a chance to honour their own customs, make new friends, earn some extra money, and be exposed to new kinds of artistic expression. Local artists who wished to join in the festival were welcomed to do so.
Baitil Aman Hotel of Sidiki Abdulrehman was the artistic hub of the festival. This exquisitely restored old Swahili mansion became the residence for many of the artists during their stay. The hotel’s inner courtyard, and high-ceilinged galleries on the ground floor, served as an ideal exhibition space for all the works produced by the artists. These areas were open to the public for free throughout the festival. Many locals and visitors came in daily to view the art, and spot the new paintings that were added to the display each evening.