Banana Art Hill Gallery
Interviewers: Isabella Schulz and Sabrina Loll
Would you like to introduce yourself and tell us something about Banana Art Hill Gallery...?
My name is Shine Tani. I´m the director of Banana Art Hill Gallery and I´m an artist. I do contemporary paintings. I think I have my own style which is acrobatic scene. It´s not really surrealistic, but it is an acrobat scene. It´s different from socialistic realism. It´s a style which begun in the early 90s. I wanted to do something else. My family is a family of acrobats, so I was an acrobat before I began to paint. My family likes it, I like it... yeah.
Which role does the Banana Art Hill Gallery play in the art scene of Nairobi?
Well, the art market of Nairobi is known in Kenya. So, many people start art groups just for production, but not for the market. So what we´re doing is supporting the market of African art via the internet, by opening the gallery, by supporting especially young artists.
Why do you speak about African art, not Kenyan art?
Well, it´s African art because it´s done by African artists. You know, most of the things they are doing are about daily life. Daily life how we see it. And, in fact, what you find in our paintings are stories, they are full of stories. It´s like storytelling.
When you founded this place in the early 90s, what was the main idea?
At the beginning, we were not supported by the government or the families. So if you have a talent, if you´re an artist and have a talent, you have to develop your work to support yourself. When I was beginning to paint, when I was beginning to get known, I was lucky to be supported by the family. Just because I´m an artist. But when you´re going out there, and nobody can help you, nobody can assist you in any way, then it´s hard. In 1992, I was only known in the local art scene. But then the TV, the radio, and the newspaper started to talk so much about me in Nairobi. When other young artists and began to produce something, they didn´t know where to go, or what to do, so they came to me, asking for assistance. I could help them in a way to develop their art. That was how it began, just like friends helping each other. Beginning in a friendly way, coming together, sharing what we have done, sharing the ideas, even criticising each other. It worked well for some years until we began to see we´re growing up. We became known, so you can sell your work for yourself and buy your own material. That´s how we begin to see ourselves now: developed. And we can help others in their development. But our main idea until today was just to support one another.
Would you say something has changed in your way of working from the beginning until now?
Completely. Yes. It has changed completely. The change was caused at first by our people. You´re starting with one idea, but other people have other ideas and it started to change.
So, when we began, we were so good and so friendly and working together. But later in the years, some of our friends, some of our artists began to become negative. There are so many of ideas that we have today that most of the artists do not support. We decided to let them work as they want. But then in a few years, the Banana Hill Art Studio was going down, was going to fall. We had a big crisis, but we worked on our main idea of supporting young artists and each other, and we came back as a gallery, the Banana Art Hill Gallery. And now it´s better, and it´s good, and it´s strong.
I just want to add one sentence: Four years ago, most of the galleries have crossed down in the country. Being one of the old galleries as an art centre, we have still survived. Just because of staying loyal to our ideal, to what we have begun.