Who is this paragon ? Picasso ? Van Gaugin ? No . None other than that doyen of Kenyan painters , Ancent Soi , whose world reknown has earned him yet another accolade in art circles : " the elder statesman of Kenyan Arts " .HE IS THE FATHER OF MODERN ART IN AFRICA .
Yet to Ancent Soi these words of praise and even these other artists he has been compaired to , mean very little . His over whelming concern and consuming passion from the days of his youth has been painting , putting down on canvas his thoughts , feelings , observations direct and simple ..... renditions from the book of life as he sees it narrated directly from the heart with no fanciful intellectuals abstractions .
From the first day when a boy in a remote village in Ukambani , he discovered the thrill and satisfaction of having objectified the world around and the delight it seemed to elicit from those around him , to the all-consuming passion that full-time painting and a world audience who eagerly await his next exhibition , little has intervened .
Born into the modest farming family near Machakos , Ancent Soi completed primary school but because of a lack of money had to move on to Nairobi to start earning a living . He was a member of the Kamba tribe , reknowned for his folk artists .It was not too long before he discovered he could easily produce some of the ' traditional ' paintings .
One night , after wandering the streets , he went back to Eastleigh where he was living and produced four canvases which he offered for sale in his employer's place . Withih few week they were sold .... from there , there was no turning back .
In 1972 Soi entered a promotional poster competition organised for the Olympic Games . From over 300 entries he won the first prize and found himself on an expenses paid trip to Europe . " I've improved a lot since that first poster " says Soi .
Regardless of the theme the most striking thing about a Soi painting is it's brilliance : "He exhibits his special ability to orchestrate compositions brimming with people and brilliantly rich colours " , as one reviewer put it . Soi paints " straight from the tube " . No messy concoctions and pale pastels ... his colours vibrate , sting and dance and the effect is dazzling . Not only are his canvases usually jam-packed with people , but everybody always seems deeply engaged in doing something simple or at least everyday , or some kind of a ritual drawn from African tribal life .
Soi's paintings demands that your eye wanders about , picks out , lingers , you think a bit then your eye resumes it's wandering . All the time one feels an almost magical enchantment with what one sees and feels.
Over the years , art critics and reviewers have described his work in glowing epithets . Pure enchantment .... captivating .... a true original .... visions of paradise .