About the Artist
Early Life and Education
Kaloki Nyamai was born in Kitiu, Kenya in 1985. His family moved to Kayaba, a poor section just east of Nairobi, when he was still a child. House fires were not uncommon in Kayaba. Nyamai said that he would scavenge for pieces of charcoal after the fires were extinguished, and use the soft charcoal as a drawing tool. He drew the houses that were left standing, and said that he realized he was documenting the history of the neighborhood.
Nyamai was inspired by his mother, who worked in fashion, and by his grandmother, who was a musician. His family was not happy when he told them that he wanted to be an artist. He studied Interior Design at the Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts in Nairobi, thinking that it would be a vocation that would satisfy his parents. He also studied filmmaking, but found that painting was what he really wanted to do.
Stories that his outspoken grandmother told him about his family and country’s history became the basis of his multi-layered paintings. Nyamai often uses boxes in his paintings to emphasize things that have occurred on the past as well as the present. He uses string to connect people, places and events and show the connection between history and identity.
Kaloki Nyamai has been given residencies in Wales, South Africa, Germany, Benin and Ghana. His work has been on exhibit at Fairs and Biennale in Paris, New York, Cape Town, Dallas and Senegal.
In 2022, his paintings were exhibited at the Pavilion of Kenya at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. He was also part of group exhibitions in 2022 in New York, Los Angeles and London and solo exhibits in Berlin and Dallas.
Kaloki Nyamai lives and works in a studio in Nairobi, where he invites other artists to work, share their work with other artists and to socialize.