Artworks from his Kenyan Period (1967 - 1997)

Charles Sekano - South Africa

Charles Sekano was born in Sophia Town, Johannesburg in 1945. His youth was cruelly overshadowed by the consequences of Apartheid.

It was in Nairobi in the 1960s, amid the very real isolation of exile, that Sekano forged himself into both a self-taught artist and a musician – and where he worked as a Jazz pianist in the multiracial bars and nightclubs of this rough-edged African metropolis. Here he lived life in the tradition of a romantic bohemian artist and musician, developing his own version of the ‘Three Ps’ – Painting, Poetry and Piano. And – like Degas and Toulouse Lautrec before him – living amongst his mostly female subjects.

His artistic expression was and is informed by the sense of loss experienced after his family was uprooted and by the resultant severing of family bonds.
Women, for Sekano – those that he immortalises in his works – became his world and his artistic language.

During his years of exile in Nairobi, Sekano waged his own passionate war against the Apar- theid regime with paintbrush and crayon. For him, colour itself began to symbolise freedom.

Whilst influences of Picasso, Braque’s Cubism, Toulouse-Lautrec and Henri Rousseau’s poster art are clear in his work, Sekano has always rooted himself in the realities of cosmopolitan urban Africa. The nightclubs and bars of Kenya, with their beautiful female clientele from diverse cultures across Africa, were his subject matter and remain his inspiration. Sekano is never moralistic, always humanistic – his works celebrate and preserve moments.

In 1997, Charles Sekano returned to a newly liberated South Africa with mixed feelings, leaving behind a country he had grown to love and re-entering a society that had largely forgotten him – the fate of many a returning exile.

Charles Sekano has exhibited widely in Kenya, Holland, Germany, Japan and the US, and his most recent show was at the University of Pretoria in 2008. His works are in private collections across the world and in various museums, including the Völkerkunde Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Peabody Essex Museum, in Massachusetts, USA.

Source: Ed Cross, London, UK