Nairobi’s vibrant art market points to a boom

As Paul Onditi prepared to move his family back to Kenya after a decade as a struggling artist in Germany, his former art school professor tried to dissuade him. “How can you leave your life here and go back?” the teacher asked. “How will you survive?” But Onditi says he was barely surviving in Europe. “I had nine years of [financial] drought. It’s winter, it’s minus 20, you can’t heat your house, the water is cut off, there is not enough money to buy food.” Six years later, Onditi, who was born in Nairobi in 1980, has made an international name for himself. But he is not the only artist finding success at home. Some of Kenya’s younger artists are now selling works for thousands of dollars — prices that would have been unthinkable a few years ago. And, as appreciation grows for contemporary Kenyan art, both at home and abroad, many hope Kenya is on the cusp of an art boom.

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