Banana Hill Art Gallery: Where African art lives

What catches your eye as soon as you enter Banana Hill Art Gallery is artwork by Haji Chilonga hung on the walls of the serene building. He is the gallery’s featured artist of the month. Located anywhere between 25 minutes and 2 hours (traffic in Nairobi 🙄) away from Nairobi CBD, is the small and cozy gallery, with a brick exterior.

Somewhat obvious fact: Banana Hill was named so by colonial (bile) British soldiers, after the many banana plantations in the area.

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At the back of the exhibition room is Benard’s desk, the gallery manager. Near that desk is a 1998, blue-green (Bondi blue) tray-loading iMac G3, currently retailing at KES 500,000; so if you know a collector with a spare 500k, you know what to do. Not far from the iMac desktop is a soapstone sculpture by the famous Expedito Mwenda. You surely do not want to mess with the beautiful piece as breaking it would cost you double the original amount.

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IMAC G3 TRAY-LOADING, BONDI BLUE – 1998 Image courtesy: webdesignerdepot.com

As you indulge yourself in the art around the gallery, you’ll be awed by the intricacy of an artist’s mind. You’ll wonder what their inspiration for that painting was, what mood they were in as they carved that sculpture, why they named it ‘The Eye’ when there is evidently no eye nor any vision feature or theme you can deduct from it. There are also hundreds of stacked up paintings in the gallery’s two back rooms. If you are looking for some pieces to spruce up your space, this gallery will leave you spoilt for choice; cityscapes, African scenes, landsapes and portraits, sculptures… The art can be purchased online via M-pesa or Paypal, and can also be shipped for those outside Kenya.

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A section of the stacked up paintings in the gallery.

The gallery is jointly owned by a couple: Shine Tani and Rahab Shine , both well -known visual artists in Kenya. It began in 1994 and has so far worked with more than 70 artists from across the continent.

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They have monthly exhibitions, featuring a different artist each month. This year kicked off with an exhibition dubbed “Supremacy Contest” by Congolese artist Bezalel Ngabo. Other artists who have had exhibition include Ron Ogwang from Uganda, Kenya’s Samuel Njuguna, Tabitha Wa Thuku, and Ann Mwiti. Through this art, you’ll see how similar our African inspirations are, how related our problems are, how alike our muses tend to be, albeit in different forms.

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Wooden carvings. Also, a depiction of my different personalities chilling.

This month’s exhibition by Tanzanian artist Haji Chilonga and runs till 31st May. If you were to walk in to the gallery this month, you’d be treated to a lot of Haji Chilonga’s pleasant artwork on the walls. More exhibitions are scheduled for the year.

Visit Banana Hill Art Gallery and see some creative and beautiful pieces!

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