As the East Africa hub of the Zeitz MOCAA, Segera will welcome its first artist in residency this August with Peterson Kamwathi. Born in Nairobi in 1980, Peter has established himself as one of East Africa’s most prominent and evocative contemporary artists. Theaesthetic of hissubstantial body of work tends to focus on distinct topics taking inspiration from the social, political and cultural themes that surround him, taking its base fromKenyan culture but also extending to a global context.

Peterson will spend the whole month of August atthe Segera retreat which is located in Laikipia, an area that boaststhe second highest density of wildlife in Kenya including elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, reticulated giraffe, Lelwel’s hartebeest and providing a refuge for endangered species such as Grevy’s zebra, patas monkey and African wild dog.

The artist in residency programme has a unique objective of allowing guests to learn first-hand about the artists work and studio practise, through being part of the very environment that is working to inspire the artist. The option of experiencing artist talks, dinners and other social activities will allow for an immersion porgramme like no other.

“We are thrilled to launch this unique programme at Segera, not only to welcome artists to the Retreat to spend time in nature and to be inspired by their pristine surroundings, but also to give our guests the extraordinary opportunity to directly engage with the leading artists of our time,” says Jochen Zeitz, Owner of Segera Retreat.

Having had his work exhibited in numerous venues around the world before, Peterson also has a permanent collection at theZeitz MOCAA.His work displays aptly the type of culturally relevant and socially challenging artwork that the Zeitz collection wishes to exhibit as it represents the cultural diversity, heritage and talent of the area.

FOUR has been lucky enough to talk to Peterson ahead of his artist in residency porgramme to find out what the experience means to him.

How does it feel to be the first artist in residency at Segera – the East Africa hub of Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary African Art)?

Excitement and a bit of apprehension. At the moment not sure which of the two is potent but I can’t wait to start!

What does this artist residency signify to you?

This is very significant for me. Firstly because it is the first time I will be in a residency program within the boundaries of my own country. This being the brainchild of ZEITZ MOCAA means that the residency is an opportunity for me to not only introspect but also remain within a context that is an integral part of the direction contemporary African art and art practice is taking. I definitely look forward to seeing the collection.

I have always tried to structure art residencies as test­sites and potential launch pads for my ideas and the direction I aspire for my expression. This happens to be my first residency in almost two years; a period in which I have also become a father and I am eager to explore how this might be influencing my perspectives.

When did you start painting professionally and how did it happen?

I became more devout to my practice from year 2003. Prior to this I had unintentionally stumbled upon Kuona Trust, a communal artists studio then situated at the Nairobi National Museum. This provided me with a community of kindred spirit and countless invaluable encounters.

What inspires you in your style?

The repetition that is the everyday. I am interested social, political, economic and religious structures; the general/ mundane human structures. I am fascinated by groupings. Recently I have had the feeling that the dynamics and rituals of the collective might be embodiment of these structures, thus my work has also become an attempt at creating visual definitions of these structures, their place and their potential symbolisms. I think that repetition is what shifts the exception into the norm. Structures mitigate the norm.

Who or what are your artistic influences?

Some of my earliest memories in this regard include looking at line drawings of the then colorfully painted long distance buses drawn by an uncle and a framed print of John Constables ‘The Haywain’ that hung in our house. Although drawn with pencil or ballpoint pen the bus drawings remain etched on my mind. I seem to recall that most of them had been drawn on accountants’ Ledger books. I have always enjoyed looking at the painted and drawn image. I love Diego Riveras’ Frescos and Takashi Murakamis work. One of my main high points was a visit to DakArt in 2008.There I encountered the power and profoundness through which Contemporary artists on the continent and the Diaspora continue to define their identities and that of their contexts. Being a part of the Amnesia Project in 2009 also remains one of the defining moments. These are some of the experiences that whose significance has stayed with me to this day.

Do you have any future exhibitions lined up?

In June this year I am part of a Nine Artists exhibition at Stevenson Cape town. I also put up a solo exhibition around September/October in the Goethe Institut in Nairobi.

What is one of your favourite dishes?

Fried Tilapia in fresh Tomato or coconut sauce.

Find out more about the Wilderness Collection’sSegera Retreat here |www.segera.com