NANA DEDE & GALLERY WATATU
Nana Dede - African Art Consulting & Investment is the sole agent of Gallery
is exactly the same asset as gold bullion
Castlestone Art Fund, London
little over 40 years ago three artistic friends - Jony Waite, Robin Anderson
and David Hart - embarked on an adventure. They created a privately-owned
professionally-managed public space in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, dedicated
to showcasing art. They named their baby, "Watatu" - three persons
It was the first of its kind in sub Sahara Africa. It had no state or government
support whatsoever at a time when such ventures were unheard of outside the
industrialized economies. Watatu was housed in a cozy, single story, commercial
building on Standard Street, in the shadow of the historic Stanley Hotel.
Very quickly the venue became the place to go, not only to see some of the
finest plastic creations East Africa had on offer but also to listen to music,
read poetry and toast the sun down in the no-frills rooftop cafe.
The trio and their patrons enjoyed the ride. But quickly they found out they
were cut to make art - not sell it. Making an art gallery financially viable
required totally different skills. Someone with that sort of skill emerged
in the person of Ruth Schaffner, a German-born American collector of post-war
art, gallerist, and passionaria of the then emergent Africa contemporary.
In time Ruth and husband, Adama Diawara, who doubles as Cote d'Ivoire's
consul-general in Kenya, nursed the Watatu baby into the honed adult it is
today - in the architect-appointed showroom on the mezzanine of the prestigious
Lonrho Africa skyscraper that replaced the little house. Ruth died in 1996
and Adama kept the Watatu spirit, stone & mortar afloat through very trying
Watatu's market is made of about 97% non-resident buyers (foreign sales)
and members of the expat community in Kenya. This market is buffeted by the
same boom & bust forces that shake the global economy. Besides, very few
modern enterprises prosper on such a tiny home market.
My task is to take Watatu to the next level. The dynamic of having one's
core market and existence dependent on "foreign visitors" must be
- I've set myself 4 core challenges:
- Get Kenyans and East Africans to constitute 50% of Watatu's market -
in five years.
- Grow the Watatu Brand, making it a global art market brand.
- Help more Kenyans and others in the sub-region discover a broader, exciting
dimension in the art of acquiring art; to enjoy what one buys certainly,
but to also see its potential as an economic asset.
- Revive the corporate social responsibility initiatives of Ruth, such
as the Ruth Schaffner Foundation, the internship & art researchers'
programme and, especially, art as a community empowerment tool under the
Ngecha and Banana Hill collectives.
Please, come for the ride with me.
Osei G Kofi, MD & Partner, Gallery Watatu