The Art of the Day: The Portrait of the King of Kenya

The Art of the Day: The Portrait of the King of Kenya

Kenya ‘a beacon of democracy’ in East Africa, says expert

by Peter Walker

BBC News, Nairobi

Kenya’s electoral commission (KEM) has promised to implement the recommendations of the commission of inquiry into the 2005 election, but doubts remain about the independence of the investigation.

The BBC Africa correspondent Peter Walker visited Kenya to hear more about the aftermath of those elections.

Kenya was once described as “the last democracy in East Africa”. But in a country that has seen coups, ethnic wars, and civil unrest, is Kenya really that free? That is what Kenya’s electoral commission is exploring.

And what happens to a country that is called a beacon of democracy when, like Kenya, it has a political leader who has been accused of serious wrongdoing, as Mr Kenyatta now is?

With a new and rather extraordinary presidential election year on the horizon, what are the chances of Kenya making it through?

To find out you have to go to the scene of the crime.

This is Nairobi and I am in the National Museum in the city centre where there are some of the few surviving paintings – on loan – by the artist James Tissot.

I was talking to the art adviser to the museum, Mwaluko Wafula, who told me that it was Tissot’s belief that painters should paint a picture of everyday life.

Mr Tissot was an artist of immense talent, said Mr Wafula, but he also believed that the art of the day should be of people who lived their lives. That is why he painted the portraits of ordinary people, the stories of ordinary lives told in the most mundane way – a mug of tea, a piece of cake, a conversation in the street – without trying to make the person look beautiful.

In this case, the subject of the portrait is the late King Edward VIII.

King Edward, the Duke of Windsor, the former King of England, is shown sitting under a palm tree in the background

In one painting, the artist depicts the Duke holding a handkerchief to his cheek in pain, with a doctor and

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