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Untitled (ECK) (from Sitting Allowance series)

Untitled (ECK) (from Sitting Allowance series)
signed and dated 'Kamwathi 09' (lower right)
charcoal and soft pastel on paper
59 5/8 x 94 3/4in. (151.4 x 240.7cm.)
Executed in 2009
Ed Cross Fine Art, London.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2014.
Nairobi, Goethe-Institut, Peterson Kamwathi - Sitting Allowance, 2009.
Special notice
This lot will be removed to our storage facility at Momart. Christie’s will inform you if the lot has been sent offsite. Our removal and storage of the lot is subject to the terms and conditions of storage which can be found at and our fees for storage are set out in the table below - these will apply whether the lot remains with Christie’s or is removed elsewhere. Please call Christie’s Client Service 24 hours in advance to book a collection time at Momart. All collections from Momart will be by pre-booked appointment only. Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 9060 Email: If the lot remains at Christie’s it will be available for collection on any working day 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. Lots are not available for collection at weekends.

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Isabel Bardawil
Isabel Bardawil Specialist

Lot Essay

Peterson Kamwathi’s bold work explores the tension between individual and collective identity, examining political upheaval, authoritarianism and migration. Primarily working in charcoal, and often working at scale, Kamwathi offers cool and nuanced comment on the state apparatus of control in Kenya, and the impacts upon its people, highlighting issues that resonate globally. At a glance, Kamwathi’s anonymous figures are reduced to their group identity, indicating the suppression of individuality.
Kamwathi created a large body of work relating to the violence following the 2007-2008 general election in Kenya, in which over a thousand people were killed. In Untitled (ECK), 2008, we see anonymous men in suits peering through sheets of paper with eye holes cut into them. One man timidly lowers the sheet, his eyes wide and fearful. The figures gaze piercingly and directly toward the viewer, their eyes showing varying degrees of either fear or defiance.
Cattle and sheep also feature prominently in Kamwathi’s oeuvre: key signifiers for many in Southern and East Africa. In the context of Kenya, the status conferred upon an individual who has a large amount of livestock has caused significant societal and environmental problems: excessive grazing has led to drought and tension between farm owners, as well as being used as a proxy for wider societal issues. In many ways cattle have played and continue to play a key role in shaping politics in Kenya. Despite being herd animals, in Kamwathi’s work, they appear more as individuals whereas humans more frequently appear in large groups and formations. In Kamwathi’s Ram Triptych we see the ram as a tragic figure, displaced and head bowed in despair, we chart the journey of the ram through his trials and tribulations, until he emerges transformed.
Peterson Kamwathi is arguably the most well known Kenyan artist who continues to live and work in Kenya. He represented Kenya at the 57th Venice Biennale 2017, and has exhibited in the Dak’Art Biennale, Senegal in 2014 and 2010.

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