+254715528784 zihanherr@gmail.com

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Zihan Kassam

Zihan Kassam is an artist and art correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya. Her art explores the human psyche; it looks the social constructs we fabricate and the psychological coping mechanisms we employ to deal with our hollow customs and meaningless norms.

Kassam’s art career began with a stint at Kuona Trust Arts Centre where she produced abstract paintings of asylums in nature; reprieves from urban life. She has since exhibited her paintings at several venues including The Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi Gallery, The Art Space, Kenya Art Fair, Heinrich Boll Foundation, Lamu Fort and The King Post. In 2013, it was her ‘Bicycle Man’ series that first caught the eye of East African art collectors in Kenya and today her artwork can be found in collections locally and abroad.

With a large portfolio of articles run by The Star and The Nation in Kenya, Zihan’s art-writing for the local newspapers was a unique blend of reporting and critique. Focusing on contemporary Kenyan artists and the evolving art landscape in Nairobi, she also wrote for international platforms Africanah, that focuses on art from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, and Conceptual Fine Arts, an up-and-coming online arts magazine based in Paris.

Kassam has worked with reputable agencies including Circle Art Agency, for whom she researched and wrote the 2014 East African Art catalogue. In February 2015, she participated as the catalogue writer at the international Lamu Painters Festival and in February 2016 she wrote the Lamu Arts Festival Catalogue. She has worked with Gizani, Dine in the Dark as the sole curator of the [therefore I am] exhibition at the Villa Rosa Kempinski in November 2015. The show included compelling artwork by acclaimed East African artists Fitsum Woldelibanos, Eltayeb Dawelbait, Gor Soudan, Michael Soi and Shabu Mwangi.

In 2016, Kassam was invited to be a tutor alongside renowned art critics Sean O’Toole and Hannah Azieb Pool, at Contemporary &’s first Creative Writing Workshop. In the same year, she participated in Nairobi’s first Curator’s Workshop through the Goethe-Insitut Kenya, winning the chance to curate her theme entitled Remote (October 2017). Her exhibition was about the psychological effects of not belonging, featuring the work of contemporary artists Maral Bolouri, Jackie Karuti, Asteria Malinzi and Joshua Obaga.

Kassam continues to work on projects that explore different platforms for the arts. She has paused her commissioned work and live drawing classes to build Adeo; a project that will still combine art and text, this time adding art-furniture design to the mix. Simultaneously, she is working away from the bustle of Nairobi, to produce her own interpretation of Remote.

Published Art Writing

Newspapers: The Nation, The Star

Magazines [Print & Online]: Art Life, The Village Beat, UP Magazine, Africanah, African Colours [Miscellaneous Articles]

The Talisman Restaurant – Online ‘Art’ Blog

Circle Art Agency – Auction Catalogue, 2014 [East-African Art – Modern & Contemporary Art Auction]

Lamu Painters Festival – Catalogue 2015 Art Writing for Qambani East African Art Collection Book, Zanzibar Website / Catalog Copy for Acclaimed Artists: Fitsum Berhe Woldelibanos (Eritrean), Maral Bolouri (Iranian), Joachim Sauter (German)


Art Exhibitions

Mar 2011 – ‘Nature Abstracts’ Solo Exhibition, The Talisman, Nairobi (March 1-15)

May 2011 – Reflections from the Lake, an LBAG Exhibition, The Village Market, Nairobi

May 2011 – Nairobi Gallery, Annual Exhibition, The National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi

Sept 2011 – Heart of Art, The Village Market, Nairobi

Sept 2011 – Conceptual Art Exhibition – The Nairobi National Museum

Nov 2011 – RIKA Conference, 7 Top Kenyan Women Artists, Sarit Centre, Nairobi

Dec 2011 – Rejoice, Celebrating Female Creativity, Lily Pond Arts Centre, Nanyuki

Sept 2012 – ‘Shelter for a Sage’ preview, Ruby Cup Champagne Brunch, Nairobi

Oct 2012 – ‘Shelter for a Sage’ Solo Exhibition, Talisman, Nairobi (Oct 23-Nov13)

Aug 2013 – Lawyers without Borders Exhibition; A US Embassy Exhibition, Kenya

Oct 2013 – ‘The Bicycle Man’ Solo Exhibition, Talisman, Nairobi (Oct 1-20)

Feb 2014 – ‘The Oaks’ Solo Exhibition, Rift Valley Leather, Karen (Feb 15- March 15)

Aug 2014 – ‘Elysian Fields’, Solo Exhibition, The Talisman, Nairobi (Aug 4 – 25)

Feb 2015 – Lamu Painters Festival 2015, Baatil Aman Exhibition, Shela (Feb 2 – 16)

Feb 2015 – KSPCA Art Auction (Feb 23)

Mar 2015 – Concerning the Internal, Circle Art Agency, Nairobi (Mar 26 – April 19)

Aug 2015 – The EAC Arts and Culture Festival by National Museums of Kenya, Kenyatta International Convention Centre (Aug 4 – Aug 6)

Oct 2015 – The AAS, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi National Museum (October  23- 35)

Oct 2015  –  In the Coming Year Exhibition, The Art Space, Nairobi (Oct 30 – Nov 13)

Nov 2015 –  Kenya Art Fair, Sarit Centre, Nairobi (Nov 12-15)

Mar 2016 –  FOTA Exhibtion, International School of Kenya

May 2016 – The Den Exhibition, Dusit D2 Hotel, Nairobi

July 2016 – The Den Exhibition, Dusit D2 Hotel, Nairobi

Nov 2016 – The Heinrich Boell Foundation, Kenyan Arts Diary 2017 Exhibition

Feb 2017 – Lamu Blue Series, Lamu Art Festival, Lamu Fort (Feb 14-19)

July 2017 – The Cooling Saucer solo exhibition, The King Post (Jul 10-20)

Nov 2017 – re-member audio discourse and art exhibition, Ngong House, Kenya


Workshops & Residencies Attended

March 2011 – Art Writing with Marina Cashdan of Frieze Magazine, Kuona Trust

May 2011 – Art, Identity & Boundaries, Footnotes Team, Kuona Trust

June 2011 – Figure Drawing & Painting with Patrick Mukabi, Kuona Trust

Sept 2011 – Conceptual Art Workshop, National Museum of Kenya

Aug 2013 – Art Writing Consultative Seminar, National Museums of Kenya

Feb 2015 – Lamu Painters Festival, Lamu Island, Kenya

Apr 2016 – Cultural Journalism Online, Goethe Institut, Kenya

June 2016 – Curator’s Workshop with Azu Nwambogu/Raphael Chikukwa, Goethe Insitut, Nairobi


Workshops Conducted

Dec 2011 – Gor Soudan & Zihan Kassam Art Writing Workshop, Kuona Trust

Regular Live Drawing Classes


Exhibitions Curated

Sept 2011 – ‘Heart of Art, The Village Market, Nairobi

Nov 2015 – Gizani Dinner in the Dark/CBM: Kenyan Contemporary Art, Villa Rosa Kempinski, Nairobi

Nov 2016 – Chasing Waterfalls by Elaine Kehew, Lord Errol, Nairobi

Oct 2017 – Remote: the yearning of the dispossessed, Goethe Institut, Kenya