Painters 2017

Maria Kolyvanova

When Maria and her fellow painter, Olga, first arrived in Kenya, they seemed overwhelmed by this alien place.  If a taxi journey through Nairobi appeared exciting, then the first boat trip from Manda to Shela was a revelation. Maria, however, soon found her niche. During her stay on Lamu, she was transformed from being quiet and unsure to loquacious and vivacious. Despite arriving with a smattering of English, with the aid of Svetlana and an English translation of Chechov, she soon found her voice.

A talented and adept artist, Maria was as comfortable painting Shela village, Maweni and Lamu as she was painting faces. She seemed to transport herself into another world as she squinted at her canvas, muttering to herself in Russian. One could sense her internal battle. Many of her paintings revealed her fascination with the endless walls daubed with graffiti. She says that the light and colours she saw on Lamu changed her palette: “I began to use more blue and red than I am used to.”

Having arrived from deep winter in the Russian Urals, Maria found the tropical climate and sun also made an impact on her work. Her painting of a hut on Mtondoni, evoked the greyness of the sand and the roof but was brought to life by bold splash of the pink wall. Her works conveyed that particular stillness cast on the buildings by the midday sun.

One could sense Maria was in her element during the Anidan orphanage visit. Children clustering around her as she worked, she produced a montage of portraits. Technically proficient in capturing a likeness, she also conveyed the personalities of her subjects.

Maria clearly made the most out of her experience. It was exciting to see her transformation both as a person and an artist during her three week tenure on Lamu.

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