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The members of Pamoja were frequent collaborators of legendary photographer Peter Beard in many illustrations of his work for over four decades (1968-2017). Pamoja’s work is mainly inspired by nature and revolves around wildlife and environmental conservation themes. Most of the members are either self-taught or benefitted from mentorship from other members, or, like Mzee Mwangi, who attended an arts program in secondary school in 1961. They utilize various techniques ranging from dotting to collage to create contemporary and abstract pieces which highlight humanity’s interconnectedness with nature.

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Elizaphason Mwangi Kuria Gibson (b. 1945 Muranga county, Kenya), also known as Mzee Mwangi (elder Mwangi), started his arts education in Kihiga primary school. He later moved on to an intermediate school where he attended an Asian college to be a bookkeeper. Mzee Mwangi believed this was “bullshit” and decided to further his studies in Nairobi at an interracial city
high school in 1961 where he spent 4 years, engaged in fine arts program. He recollects with a fondness on the still life drawing classes. Upon graduation he was approached by newspaper houses to draw cartoons but declined, and instead began work as a carpenter. His carpentry skills attracted Peter Beard and was employed as a tent repair man. Mzee Mwangi’s works revolve around wildlife and nature, performed through dotting, and refers to his works as “imagination art”, where he dreams and creates what he sees. His artistic career has impacted
members of his sphere, to mentoring two of his sons who have shown great interest in his art.

Nathaniel Kiboi Philip Mathenge (b. 1941, Nyeri, Kenya), whose name is sometimes spelled Kivoi had no formal education in fine art. As a youth he began work at the Aberdare National Park, where he met Peter Beard a then journalist. Kivoi was conscripted to help him write a book about the “Tales of Kamante” between 1966 and 1975, where Kivoi would sketch and paint animals along the margins of the pages of text. Impressed with his work Peter opened an art department at Hog Ranch with Kivoi, where Peter continued to mentor Kivoi. Kivoi works in oil paints and considers his work entirely of his “mind” and his “nature”. His time at The Abredare National Park has instilled nature as a motif in his work. His authentic hand drawn work promotes the importance of conservation and Africa’s wildlife.

Gibson Kuria Mwangi (b. 1976, Rongai, Kajiando County, Kenya), also referred to as Maina, the tenacious second child of Mzee Mwangi, recalls that since class 3 (grade 3) he dabbled in sculpturing, stitching, and painting, and discovered a natural interest in art. He dropped out of school in class 7 (grade 7), due to his father’s financial challenges pushing Kuria to begin work with mkokoteni (pulling carts), which lasted till his father requested his help at Hog Ranch. He describes his creative process akin to driving a car or riding a bicycle, it “never leaves your blood.” Kuria ponders that his art is like second nature, he sees it in walls stained by water, he states that “art exists everywhere.” Once he is consumed by an idea, he foregoes food and drink until it is complete. Kuria’s resilience allowed him to create despite the apathy of his community since they perceive art as a fun activity and not work.

Macharia Mwangi (b. 1994, Kajiado County, Kenya) The observant and quiet last born to Mzee Mwangi, Macharia looks back appreciating his early experiences painting at the age of 15. His art classes as well as the mentorship from his brother (Kuria) and father (Mzee Mwangi) fueled his artistic ambitions. Despite his financial difficulties and loneliness, he is sustained by the positive feelings of “putting something to paper”. He is deeply attached to his creations, each of them composed from a piece deep within him, he visualises it in the way he imagined it Macharia describes his work as contemporary, he combines realistic drawings consolidating from the lessons he has learned from his mentors. Macharia believes that he should be recognised locally and internationally to support him and his community of artists.

Gabriel Macharia Mwangi (Kenyan, b. 1947) began his creative pursuits as a musician in 1959 playing guitar and went on to do so for 30 years. As a young man, he began recording with local artists, expanding his lyrics in Swahili, Kikuyu and English, playing mostly in clubs and wherever else his ensemble would secure a gig. Gabriel began recording in a recording studio in1968 and recounts that it took 6 months to a year to record 4 songs, but today would take less than a day! Although he performed many songs in local dialects, Gabriel was deeply inspired by Jim Reeves, Charlie Pride and The Beatles. He faced challenges penetrating society with his music was met with some resistance since people associated playing music to vices and secularism. Gabriel was hired by Peter Beard and stopped working on his own music to entertain Peter’s guests. It is here that he was exposed to the world of paint work.

Solomon Misigo Mugasia (b. 1976, Busia, Western Kenya) is from a family of 10 children. He was raised by parents who were farmers. He went to primary and secondary school in Busia. Wide eyed and expectant to seek and earn a living, Solomon and his younger brother made their way
to Nairobi in 1998 to look for work, right after completing high school. He was first hosted by his uncle who worked as a mechanic. He began work in construction, cleaning, and other odd jobs he could find. In 1999 he and his brother moved in with his aunt in Ongata Rongai, hoping for something different. His aunt who worked for Peter Beard came home one day and asked if he
knew how to draw, that was the beginning of Solomon’s creative journey. Solomon describes his life at Hog Ranch as his “college” and says that Peter “laid the foundation for him as an artist.” Solomon’s work attempts to “tell a story through wildlife”, painting little rivers, frogs and other members of the little ecosystems created on paper. He mentions that he has used materials and tools such as dead insects, leaf prints, even his feet to portray our interconnectedness with nature. Solomon affirms that these “bonds make us one with all” and is sustained with love.

Nicholas Njenga Mutarin (b. 1981, Rongai, Kajiando County, Kenya) started off his art career as a graphic designer, creating signage for kiosks and local businesses. He remembers pencil work drawings he did at St. Mary’s Karen Primary School in Nairobi. Njenga’s friends Marimba and Kuria introduced him to Mzee Mwangi who was working at Peter Beard’s Ranch and was hired due to his lettering prowess back in 2002. Peter noticed Njenga’s talent and began to teach
him techniques in dotting. For him it is all about nature, creating a narrative with dotting to portray the beauty of nature. Njenga’s creative career has taught him the value of patience, which has guided him throughout his life. He confident that he will “one day succeed” with his works, “there is no separating me and my art, my life is art”. Despite the mockery he has faced Njenga provides that “art has the ability to speak to people and I speak through my art”.

Peter Marimbe Parsimei (b. 1978, Rongai, Kajiando County, Kenya) was neighbours at the time with Mzee Mwangi, and recalls with fondness watching Mzee Mwangi at work, which lit a creative fire within him. He describes his style as “imagination art”, and uses nature as his well of inspiration, targeting themes like conservation and the natural environment. He maintains that art is his “life”, he has not been able to find alternative work because it is always on his mind. In his 23 years as an artist, he advocates on the importance of environmental protection. Marimbe worked at Peter Beard’s Hog Ranch from 1999 to 2011.


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