Banana Art Hill Gallery
Interviewers: Isabella Schulz and Sabrina Loll
Could you please introduce yourself.
My name is Rahab Jenbi, my artist name is Rahab Shine. That is the way I sign my paintings. I´m the director of Banana Art Hill Gallery, and also the owner, because it´s a family gallery. It´s my and my husband’s gallery. The way we started the Banana Art Hill Gallery was as Banana Art Hill Studio in 1992. We started as a group of artists. At that time, my husband was teaching students how to paint in our own home. He was buying material, telling young artists what to do, and from his knowledge he started this group. At the same time, he helped them to sell their paintings. The group become famous and had different exhibitions, outside the country. In Europe, for example in Germany. He won a price in Germany for his art work, as well. After he came back, we moved with our studio to this building It´s much bigger than our old art studio. He continued teaching young artists, but we changed our topic from an art studio to an art gallery. That was in 2004. We decided to do so, because the students wanted to have their own place for working, so they started their own studio. They were painting there and brought their work here. That´s how we help the young artists to work.
And what do you think about the gallery scene in Nairobi? We heard it is not that easy to exist – but you have been doing it for quite a while now!
Yes, it´s true. It´s very hard, because we need money to pay the rent, to pay the bills, and sometimes it is hard even to sell a piece of painting. But as we have grown to a gallery, we have done a lot. We are able to manage it, to pay the bills, and to pay the artists. We decided to mix artists from the whole of Africa. Right now, we have artists from Tanzania, Ruanda, Kongo, Uganda, Kenya... we have many artists. Because the customer who comes and looks for the art would not only come for looking at my pieces. He looks for what his heart is beating for.
Would you say – because you have a lot of experience with artists from different countries – is there something special about Kenyan art?
For me, I can talk about African art. There is something that African art has in common. It is very special, because it is very hard to copy. What I have produced from my mind is out there; if I sell it, I sell the whole lot of it. I cannot do it again.
Why is it like that?
It´s a gift. It´s a gift... I´m an artist and I know when I carry that painting and put it on the canvas it is out. I cannot do it again. It´s gone.
What do you think is special about this place, Banana?
We are still staying in Banana, because that is where our story started... From the first day until today, ‘cause I got married and moved to Banana in 1991. I can call it home. This is where I have lived my life - as a mother as well as an artist. My focus is to have my own place, my own home in Banana.