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Visual Arts

Work by Kimathi Donkor
Work by Kimathi Donkor

Caribbean Passion : Haiti 1804

Review by Kamali Melbourne
Kimathi Donkors's solo exhibition is an inspiration in art and an education in history.

Caribbean Passion : Haiti 1804
Start Date:06/10/2005
End Date:18/11/2005
Prices:adult Free
Venue Name:The Art Exchange Gallery

About Kamali...

My name is Kamali Melbourne, I am 23 years old and have recently graduated from Nottingham Trent University. I love Nottingham because it has all the charm of the north, with the cosmopolitan feel of the south. I love the football teams, I love the fact we have Robin Hood as our most famous celebrity, but most of all I love the cultural diversity which makes the city what it is.

The work of Kimathi Donkor must be witnessed first hand to be fully appreciated. His solo exhibition at Nottingham's Art Exchange is a tribute to the birth of a nation and the abolition of slavery, through five epic oil paintings.

Each piece tells a different story, depicts a different moment, but together they become one.

As you walk into the Art Exchange on Gregory Boulevard in the city's Hyson Green area, the epic centrepiece of the exhibit "Toussaint L'Overture at Bedourette" confronts you.

The colours of the piece are what draws ones eye to it. The vividness of the reds, blues and whites are captivating while the scale of the picture is breathtaking.

The piece depicts Toussaint leading a group of his militia against the French, with Toussaint himself as the centrepiece, riding nobly on a rearing horse, sword drawn staring directly at the observer while his troops fill the rest of the frame around him; some in celebration, some in distress, one dead and others looking purposely forward, weapons ready, to continue the fight.

Kimathi Donkor and his work
Kimathi Donkor and his work

The similarities to Jacques Louis-David's "Napoleon on Horseback at the St Bernard Pass" painted in 1800 are clear and Donkor is able to "write back" (to use a literary term) in his representation of Toussaint as a noble and victorious leader, leading his people against the colonial power of France.

Although the Toussaint piece is the centrepiece of the exhibit, for me, the most moving and enchanting piece is in the upstairs gallery, titled "Jean Jacques and Marie Claire Dessalines".

The painting depicts the heroic General Dessalines, who declared Haiti independent in 1804 after Toussaint's death, tearing the white strip from the French flag, thus creating the red and blue which is the Haitian flag of today.

The symbolism of this act is reinforced by the lack of vivid colour as with Donkor's other work. The picture is Black. The two figures are lit by moonlight, their blackness emphasised by the artists use of colour, or lack there of. The female in the picture is recognizably African by origin, a deliberate ploy by Donkor to give the painting further depth and meaning as she is depicted cradling her heroic partner.

To say this exhibition must be seen to be believed is an understatement. You simply must witness the paintings for yourself to fully appreciate their magnificence. Donkors’s exhibition is an inspiration in art and an education in history. It is one not to be missed.

The exhibition is on at the Art Exchange, Gregory Boulevard, Nottingham until Friday, 18th of November 2005.

last updated: 31/10/05
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