MISSUE NO. 3207 

February 13 - 19, 2009


 Coastweek   Kenya

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The Hidden Talent
of a Gifted Artist


Coastweek -- While Nabeel Ismail paints African wildlife with
a discerning eye as a naturalist
-- such as his latest work,
'Unpredictable and Dangerous'
-- his chosen genre is histo-
rical and ruined buildings. 


A PERSONAL APPRECIation by cahil maduFf

Coastweek -- The year was 1996 when I stared at a painting with immeasurable happiness and awe, for the artist was scarcely out of his teens and yet the work was a mature creation by one who knew his subject exceedingly well.

The 24 X 36 image on canvas depicted a kill.

The Musiara Plains were unmistakable for me who had spent decades flying in and out of the Masai Mara.


Coastweek -- Nabeel Ismail: After the Storm.

But more than the realistic depiction, “After the Storm” for that is the name of the painting, resonated with the familiar sounds and grunts of lions after a successful kill.

The big male appears to be wary after what could have been a terrific battle to bring down a mature Cape buffalo.

Painted against the backdrop of the Siria Escarpment, the painting is a superb rendition of the predator/ prey relationship and the drama that is played out almost daily in this superb world heritage site.

The loose painterly style makes the painting even more interesting and dramatic.

The quick brush strokes then seemed to me as though the artist had used a palette knife instead of brushes.

The daubs of colour appear to have been applied in an impasto manner and yet the vibrant atmosphere and details are all captured with absolute realism.

This spectacular acrylic painting hangs in the home of Dr. Gonzalo Moreno Sanchez in Tucson, Arizona.

The distinguished Neuro-surgeon and Egyptologist has done 16 photo safaris with Nabeel Ismail’s father in some of the remotest and most inaccessible places in East Africa.

Coastweek -- Nabeel Ismail: Unpredictable and Dangerous.

While Nabeel Ismail paints African wildlife with a discerning eye as a naturalist, such as his latest work, “Unpredictable and Dangerous,” his chosen genre is historical and ruined buildings.

The street scenes of Zanzibar’s Stone Town and places along the East African Coast have a special appeal for him.

These include Lamu, Pangani, Bagamoyo, Lindi, Kilwa and Mtwara..




Coastweek -- Nabeel Ismail:
Street Scene in Zanzibar.

Coastweek -- Nabeel Ismail:
Street Scene Lamu Island.

Coastweek -- Nabeel Ismail:
Street Scene in Mombasa.

He believes that unless these old buildings are preserved for posterity, a time will come when the moneyed industrialists and greedy developers will demolish not just a heritage but also a culture which is seeped in history and whose civilisation and unique way of life is rapidly dying.

One town along Kenya’s coast is a classic example of this invasion and rapid change. 

Nabeel Ismail has come of age and sadly he rarely paints much these days.

When I asked him, he said that art like writing is rarely appreciated in Kenya; and for one to eke out a living purely from art can be suicidal.

One has to be multi-talented, versatile and capable of adapting to any situation.

Our “global village” unfortunately calls for the survival of the fittest and the ruthless, he said, “I do paint, but only for pleasure rather than to eke out a living.

“Art is therapeutic for me and not a means to the acquisition of wealth.

“The political upheavals in this world are to a large extent due to greed and our morbid desire for wealth.”

He continued, “I have learned from my father in ‘being in this world, but not of it.’

“Few will understand this Sufi aphorism and yet it is so relevant today.

“Human life like all other life forms suffers from impermanence; it is transitory.

“We must walk this earth with humility and shy away from greed.”


Coastweek -- Nabeel Ismail: A Demolished Building which
stood many years next to the Standard Bank, Mombasa.

As is their habit, the Ismails are off to Lake Lagarja this month to photograph and sketch wildlife and pristine locations.

This lake is at the south east end of the Serengeti.

“My father has been going there for the last 45 years; it is a very special place for him.

“I could never have asked for a more experienced and discerning naturalist” said Nabeel.

Cahil Marduff, Mombasa.






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