The beauty of art is its ability to capture the audience’s interest, curiosity, thoughts or even identification to particular groups or subjects. And this is exactly what Martin Oliver Okoth (pictured) has done with his latest exhibition dubbed Hip Hop at the Karen Village, an upcoming Arts Centre launched in August 2015.
It is part of continuation in paying homage to various genres of music by interpreting the songs on canvas. This is the second of its kind after the initial one paying tribute to reggae he hosted at National Museums of Kenya last year.
The current solo exhibition takes a journey through his favourite Hip Hop songs and artists, both local and international and interpreted their songs in creative and rousing paintings, of mostly oil on canvas. It is not just a tribute but Okoth endeavours to help us understand the lyrics and put them into perspective.
In the exhibition hall, there is a DJ playing back to back Hip Hop that helps shape the theme further as you go round savouring the many paintings being exhibited. “The paintings are all about how I interpret the music. I try to interpret from the heart and put my imagination to bring them to life,” says Okoth explaining one of the painting he says took a year to compile.
The interpretation does not need to be as per the song per se, as he uses local contexts and examples to explain them, like in Kriss Kross song, Jump Jump, where he has drawn Maasai morans jumping, super imposed with the artist. He says this is to make them a have a local interpretation as they are known for that.
In Camp Mulla’s song, Fresh all day, he draws the members of the group surrounded by a collection of big brands of colognes manufactured outside the country. This, he says, was a way of looking at ourselves critically, especially our obsession with foreign goods which we perceive to be of better quality.
In Tupac Shakur’s Worldwide, he draws a picture of the globe, which he says is a representation of how Hip Hop started as a movement in the US and spread fast worldwide to become a culture celebrated through dance, graffiti, dressings and songs.
In What a Man by Salt and Pepper, he has drawn faces of world’s most prominent and who have shaped the world in one way or the other while for Run DMC’s song Adidas, he draws an Adidas shoe which is to remind us of another journey of Hip Hop on how it started being used in marketing.
Back then, Hip Hop was not accepted especially by the Europeans, but when the group performed at a concert wearing the shoes, they sold remarkable numbers prompting adidas to make Hip Hop their endorsement songs and other brands followed suit. Over 50 pieces are on exhibition selling between Sh10, 000 and Sh40,000 and is set to close on July 8.