Kamau “Cartoon” Joseph was born in 1973 in Ngecha, just outside Nairobi. He first painted in the nearby Banana Hill Studio, and then he exhibited his work at Watatu gallery and also internationally.
Historian Sidney Kasfir (in Contemporary African Art, 1999) describes him as an artist whose work “has an exuberance that is extremely difficult for formally skilled artists to achieve.”
He currently works from his home in Banana Hill.
In 1994 his first paintings were bought by Ruth Schaffner and resold to a Japanese collector. He has been known internationally since then.
The artist works with oil on canvas and gets his inspiration from everyday life. His work often shows women who carry out their daily activities.
Cartoon has developed his own style. He divides the faces of his figures proportionally using a variety of colors that he says represent the many faces and tribes that form the nation of Kenya.
To date Cartoon has held many solo and group exhibitions, both at home and abroad. In 2001 he also won a Royal Art Scholarship of one and a half years, funded by the British royal family.
One of Cartoon’s paintings is on the cover of the book Thames and Hudson from 1999, Contemporary African Art.
His colorful and complex compositions are often depicted chameleons, which symbolize changing times. You can also see fish, the fish again symbolizes the importance of good nutrition and trade.
Images of clay pots refer to the use for storage and food preparation as well as to the universality of the use of clay pots throughout the continent. They are therefore symbolic of unity – the widespread use of clay pots refers to shared values and needs in African communities and refers to a commonality.
From time to time, there are also two-story traditional cabins with their cone-shaped roofs and exterior ladders leading to the seating and sleeping areas above the kitchen.
Another characteristic of Cartoon’s work is the way he divides the faces of his figures in his paintings into colored sections. Here he wants to show that the painted figures in his work Kenyans are not from 1tribe but from different communities in an attempt to transcend a tribalism.
Cartoon Joseph gained fame in 1994 and sold his first work at Watatu gallery, the fertile ground for unskilled artists.
Title: Mother: Seize: 82 cm x 84 cm
Title: Sailing back home. Seize: 62 cm x 56 cm
Title: Homework sharing Seize: 101 x 81