The Nairobi Gallery

The Nairobi Gallery : Located at Kenyatta Avenue and Uhuru Highway roundabout next to Nyayo House – at the edge of the Nairobi Central Business District, The Nairobi Gallery also known as Nyumba ya Sanaa ya Nairobi is an art gallery dedicated to showcasing African Art.

The building is situated at Kenya’s point zero from where distances to all corners of the country and subsequently to the continent and the world were measured from. Furthermore, the building is part of an original master plan of government buildings around what is now Kenyatta Avenue. In many ways, the building is connected to the history and development of Nairobi and its people.

The building was built in 1913 to house the Native Ministry, this building was fondly referred to by the settler community as “Hatches, Matches and Dispatches” because of the births, marriages and deaths that were recorded here. Before independence, the building was a colonial courthouse where natives accused of entering Nairobi without a pass were tired and sentenced.

After independence, the house was used by the provincial commissioner as the Nairobi Province office until 1983 when they relocated to Nyayo House. Later KANU (Kenya African National Union) the ruling party by then used the building as its KANU Nairobi branch office until 1999.

Because of its historical significance the Old P.C’s building was gazetted by the Kenya government on 22/10/93 Gazette Notice 5257 and confirmed on 19/04/95 Gazette Notice 2016. The building was then handed over to the National Museums of Kenya for preservation purposes in 1977. It opened its doors to the public in November 2005 when it hosted its first temporary exhibition “Dreaming in Pictures” by jakKatarikawe.

Today, the Gallery has become the home of Joseph and Sheila Murumbi’s collections. Joseph Murumbi was Kenya’s second vice president and the Nairobi Gallery is dedicated to promoting local artists through displaying of their artwork.

Key Attractions in The Nairobi Gallery

Architectural Design

The Nairobi Gallery is an example of Victorian architecture, the exterior of the building is decorated with columns, niches, friezes and pediments of natural stone. The original entrance of the gallery leads from the roundabout into an octagonal dome hall (point zero) covered with a beautiful dome. The surrounding rooms extend from the central space and are divided into two wings, the walks have a smooth line plaster finish, windows and doors of teak wood, some ceiling have patterns.

Colonial Safes

The Nairobi Gallery has two old safes that were used by the colonial government and have never been opened since they left.

The Murumbi African Heritage Collections

Joseph and Sheila Murumbi were Africa’s greatest private collectors of artifacts, art pieces, books, jewelry, postal stamps, textiles and furniture which are displayed at the Nairobi Gallery. Their mission was to preserve, protect and promote African culture in all its form.

The Murumbi African Heritage collection exhibition at the Nairobi Gallery has been displayed in different galleries with different storylines, collection of books, textiles and costumes, jewellery, African artifacts, the Murumbi home and finally the Pan African Postage Stamp Collection said to be next to the queen of England in importance.

Pioneer Art Gallery

The National Museums of Kenya endeavors to promote artists through the display of their artwork and an art space within this building has been dedicated to this cause. Temporary Art Exhibitions by both pioneer and upcoming artists from within and out of Kenya are held after every three months in this space.

The Nairobi Gallery
The Nairobi Gallery

Photos of some of the pioneer African artists who started their art career in 1960’s despite all the odds are also on display. Some of these artists are Magdalene Odondo, ExpenditoMwembeKibula, ElkanaOngesa, Jack Katarikawe, Richard Onyango, John Ondochameny, Francis Nnaggenda, Sanaa Gateja, Accent Soi, Geraldine Roberts, NaniCroze, and Yony Waite.

Interactive public programs

The Nairobi Gallery holds various interactive programs to different audiences including

Weekends/Holiday Children Activities – The Nairobi Gallery organizes interactive programs and activities for young children on weekends and holidays. Currently a program dubbed passing indigenous knowledge from the elderly to the young is running. The program involves elederly people above 70 years interacting with young children below 15 years.

Youth art programs – Twice a year, Nairobi Gallery organizes on site mentorship programmes from different young visual artists groups. The artists are motivated through different themed art activities including workshops, painting and displaying their paintings to the public as well as motivational talks and discussions.

Guided Tours: individuals/groups can enjoy guided tours by well-trained guides who interpret the exhibition. Audio guides are also available on request.

School Programs – Themed relevant education programs for different age group are developed in line with the school syllabus. Through these programs, booked groups actively participate in discovery sessions where learners closely interact with objects through their senses and hands on activities hence understanding the set program better.

Gift Shop – The gallery has a gift shop where one can purchase different publications, art pieces and documentaries.

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