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Hello! And a very warm welcome!
Or as we say in Swahili here in Kenya: Karibu sana! [pronounced ca-ree-boo saa-nuh, if you want to brush up on your Swahili].
From a legal standpoint, we are African Art Store Ltd., a private limited liability company incorporated in Kenya.
We are a small but growing, black-African, family-owned and run business.
All five of us are passionate about premium African art so this is peppered all over our home...
This website is a natural extension of this creative expression.
We hope you will be bitten by the African art bug.
My name is Mon and Jesus is my Lord and Savior.
I carry out this business honestly and heartily because I am confident that ultimately, I am serving my Lord Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:23-24).
I am a wife, mother of three, and the mastermind behind this site, and of the company. It turns out, am also its poster-girl.
Born and bred in Uganda, I lived to tell the tale of Amin's and Obote's virtually back-to-back reigns of terror…
When some of my relatives, and hundreds of thousands—or possibly millions—of my other compatriots paid the ultimate price.
Living through murderous regimes as a little girl was tough. Basic needs—such as food, water, and clothing—were so hard to come by, they were practically luxuries.
But if I could erase one bad memory, it would have to be the haunting, constant sound of assault rifle gunfire, roaring armored personnel carrier bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, and huge explosions that rocked my country 8-years non-stop.
These were traumatizing in and of themselves...
But even more ominous, they foreboded senseless murders, disappearances, rapes, aggravated assaults, and armed robberies…
Every night I went to bed, I wondered whether I, or my mother, or brother, or sister, or grandma, or grandpa would be next…
As government soldiers went on rampage, committing these acts of impunity under the pretext that they were fighting the fast-advancing guerilla rebels who eventually rode to power on promises of effecting an across-the-board fundamental change.
School supplies were rare, hoarded and priced out of reach so an entire class of 120 shared one essential textbook for each subject.
When I was 12, my education almost came to a screeching halt…
As seniors in junior school, my classmates and I were going about our unsupervised revision in our boarding school on the outskirts of the capital, Kampala...
Then out of the blue, a soldier sprung up by a window on the left side of the classroom.
We screamed, scampered over the desks, and huddled in the classroom's left back corner and pleaded with him to spare our lives.
"Temutya," he tried to calm us. The word translates as "do not be afraid" in Luganda, a language that is widely spoken in Uganda.
Was he kidding?
This guy was dressed in military camouflage, wielding an AK-47 and had clearly breached our school fence. And he expected us to stay calm?!
Thankfully, that day ended without incident but clearly, that is a relative term.
My devoted teachers soldiered on in the face of these and other seemingly insurmountable odds, including the soaring hyperinflation that progressively eroded their already meager earnings.
The least we could do was to make them proud, right?
This isn't supposed to be a memoir, so I'll spare you the minute details about the principal triumphs and tribulations of my life, and my neighbor's sister's automobile.
Suffice it to say that that early uncertain education has opened doors for me and my family that I never dreamed of as a shy, petite, and traumatized young girl in then war-torn Uganda.
From hanging out in the Queen's backyard in the esteemed company of Ben 10 himself 😁...
To feeding pigeons in London's Trafalgar Square (sadly, the authorities eventually booted them out), touring Robin Hood country in Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire and, even "masquerading" in Cambridge...
And then earning my place in the other (more famous?😉) Cambridge…
From cruising around the Mediterranean, then the Caribbean…
I have come into my own as a teacher, an environmentalist and advocate for social justice for the marginalized segments of society, or the “wretched of the earth,” as Frantz Fanon asserts.
I was definitely not born with a silver spoon in my mouth and was buffeted by strong headwinds from the get-go…
But the world is my oyster now.
Those who dive into the sea of affliction, bring up rare pearls!
~ Charles H. Spurgeon
I've spent most of my adult life in Kenya, which is also where my husband, Chris, is from. So we pride ourselves in our pan-African essence and outlook.
Whenever I went back to my home country, I collected quintessentially Ugandan art to help me cope with homesickness when I'd return to Nairobi.
Or so I thought.
But taking a closer look at the family collection, I noticed an interesting trend. Turns out, art stores was the top item to check off every time we visited any country!
Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria.
Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.
Thailand, UAE and Oman.
US (DMV, MA, DC, FL), Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Virgin Islands and the Bahamas.
UK, Switzerland, France, Italy and Spain.
And our palate is expanding as we visit even more countries.
I may be well-traveled but my accent is distinctly African; Ugandan, even. So my English and intonation take a bit of getting used to :).
So to stop my twang from distracting you from my message, I opted to start this website.
The written word is, after all, neutral—it has the same meaning whether read with a conventional accent or an exotic inflection.
BABA in short.
Africa can only experience lasting development when we turn the top-down, foreign aid-driven paradigm upside on its head.
Because aid typically doesn't percolate to the marginalized, who sit at the base of the societal hierarchy. Plus, it comes with strings attached. And it's not really free—there ain't no such thing as a free lunch…
Our bottom-up approach consists of paying the artists cash for their finished pieces which we then stock. Substantial cash resources are obviously tied up as a result.
But crucially, we take the risk and wait out the sale. Not the artist.
But we also handle the entire order fulfilment process—packing with robust packaging, shipping and, tracking delivery.
By buying our pieces, you help to release the tied up cashflow, which can then help to support established and upcoming artists who struggle to make ends meet…
Take Solomon, for instance. Known for his portraiture in his local Thika community, he crafts our easels as a side hustle, one of which he is evidently incredibly proud...
But to say that he lives and works in deplorable, unsanitary conditions is an understatement, right?...
A well-fed artist is obviously more creative than a hungry one with pending utility bills and house rent arrears.
The virtuous cicle that results from this is a win-win-win situation for:
So BABA! BABA! BABA! And then some!
OK, OK, let me take a step back and qualify the heading you just read...
First, there can never be another Leonardo da Vinci. Certainly not the one who produced the masterpieces captioned above.
Second, as influential as this Italian artist was and remains, many African artists are charting their own course; creating new genres that are distinctly African.
So, on both scores, perhaps that subtitle is somewhat misplaced.
But the general point remains…
African art has come of age. The continent is teeming with super-talented and skilled painters, sketch artists, weavers, and sculptors.
Now, can you please do me a small favor?
Will you help keep these artists motivated by investing in their outstanding pieces?