Kaloki Nyamai’s painting practice combines material investigation with a wide-reaching exploration of subject matter, and offers fragments of hidden narratives, uneasy stories of identity, environment and memory to be pieced together slowly. The lengthy process of research employed in constructing these works is mirrored in the experience of viewing them. Nyamai explores the parallels between the past and the present through richly-layered, multimedia works.
Drawing heavily on the stories of the Kamba people, his works explore how history and identity are intertwined and how this has informed the identities of people living in present day, post-colonial Kenya. In his earlier works, the artist documented the slum settlement that he grew up in. These charcoal pieces were intended to capture a space in flux, and preserve an impression of sites as fragile as this one. But they were also about adding complexity to widely held perceptions of such environments. Although his work has developed substantially since these earlier works, Nyamai’s subject remains closely connected to such subject matter.