A walk with Kenyan artist Camille Wekesa on her current exhibition titled Jade & Silver

Above: Camille Wekesa at her art exhibition Jade & Silver with the Jade Sea (Lake Turkana) and the shades of the petrified forest by the lake.

Published in The East African Nation media 2 June-8 June 2018

Camille is sophistication personified and a walk with her around her current exhibition which was exhibited at Muthaiga Country Club this month (May), showcases two diverse Kenyan landscapes she’s painted using different media. Having studied art in Italy, she’s held several exhibitions around the world.

Camille has served on many boards including Friends of Karura Forest and is the Director and Founder of Orkedi Limited, set up to create a permanent collection of art featuring African landscapes and wildlife. She is an environmentalist bringing out the beauty of nature through her art perfectly embodied in her quote, “It’s my love of both painting and conserving indigenous forests and natural habitats.”

Jade & Silver is about the Jade Sea otherwise known as Lake Turkana and the largest permanent lake in a desert and Tsavo National Park that’s a sprawling savannah teaming with wildlife.

Camille is best known for her layering technique while painting oils which create depth and colour.

Q & A with Camille

  1. Why Jade & Siver?
  2. I loved the color Jade which seemed to be the dominant color of Lake Turkana (nicknamed the Jade Sea because of its color) amongst all the grayness of Northern Kenya.

I was playing around with words and because the whole tree series were about the shimmering metallic colors of the trees in Tsavo, I wanted to pick another color to symbolize that.

Silver seemed to go well with Jade although I could have used Jade & Gold, Jade & Bronze  …. Silver just seemed to catch what the two safaris were about to the two different places.

  1. Your favourite painting in this exhibition?    The Tsavo Tree series on gesso. It’s a set of 18 panels of the commiphora tree.
camille tree (800x686)
The Tree series on gesso

Three years ago l was in Tsavo and it was extremely dry. There were no leaves on the trees. Yet they had so many different shapes and metallic colors. I wanted to capture the shimmer. I decided to use water based tempera paint and pearl-lustre powder with extremely fine brushes which helped bring out the sheen on the gesso panel.

It’s the same technique as the wildlife series in this Collection. I used gesso panels which are wooden planks primed with gesso; a traditional mix of an animal glue binder, chalk and white pigment used to coat wooden panting panels as a primer before painting, or which helps as a sealer for porous canvas.

  1. Your favourite in the Turkana series?
  2. This one – Cracked earth. It’s oil on canvas. I wanted to capture the gray hues that are the most representative of Turkana as far as the dominant colours are concerned (except for the jade sea).
Cracked Earth
  1. What did you use to capture the vivid jade of the Jade Sea and the shades of the petrified forest by the lake?
  2. They are oil on canvas. I used oils on canvas by building up the 40 layers of colour over a year or more, starting with the darker hues which helped me create the depth particularly in the jade sea.
  3. Where were these?
  4. They are on the way back from Turkana in Marsabit and North Horr. The hills were gorgeous. I worked on oil sketches on paper to begin with.
  5. How long did it take you to complete this Collection?
  6. I started in 2015 in Tsavo. I returned in 2017 as well as visiting turkana in the same year.
  7. Why are you exhibiting this Collection in London – tell us more about the gallery?

My last exhibition in London was in 2012 so i felt it was the right time to exhibit again. i lived in london for several years so i have clients who follow my work there too. i also felt the gesso panels are a new more modern type of painting that i havent done before. it’s important to keep moving forward and developing your work.

  1. Are you working on your next exhibition and what will it be and when?

I will take a couple of months off and travel to a few more places in kenya. when i feel excited about painting the next landscapes and trees, l will know that is the next series of work.