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Zihan Kassam

Zihan is an artist and art correspondent in Kenya. Her work explores the human psyche. It looks at the social constructs we fabricate, the psychological mechanisms we employ to cope with these norms, and our desperation for respite from the culture we perpetuate.

Kassam’s art  career began with a stint at Kuona Trust Arts Centre  painting abstract visions of asylums in nature. Her 'cerebral landscapes' are reprieves from urban life. She exhibited her work at several venues including Circle Art Gallery, Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi Gallery, the Kenya Art Fair and Heinrich Boll Foundation. In 2013, it was her ‘Bicycle Man’ series that turned the heads of art collectors.

Today Zihan’s work can be found in both local and international art collections. With a sizeable portfolio of articles run by The Star and The Nation, Zihan’s art-writing for Kenyan newspapers is a distinctive blend of reporting and critique. Focusing on Kenyan artists and the evolving art landscape in Nairobi, her writing can be found on international platforms such as Africanah, who focus on art from Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa, and Conceptual Fine Arts, a well-regarded online arts magazine based in Paris, France.

With 100+ published essays on Kenyan art, she offers an archive of documentation to researchers. Kassam has worked with reputable institutions including Circle Art Agency, for whom she researched and wrote the 2014 Modern and Contemporary Art Auction East Africa catalogue. In 2015, she wrote the catalogue for the international Lamu Painters Festival and then the Lamu Arts Festival catalogue the year after. Zihan worked with Gizani, Dine in the Dark as sole curator of the [therefore I am] exhibition at the Villa Rosa Kempinski in November 2015. The show included provocative artwork by internationally acclaimed East African artists including Eltayeb Dawelbait, Gor Soudan, Michael Soi, Paul Onditi and Shabu Mwangi.

In 2016, Zihan was invited to be a tutor alongside internationally renowned art critics Sean O’Toole and Hannah Azieb Pool, at the first Contemporary And’s Creative Writing Workshop. The same year, she was invited for Nairobi’s first Curator’s Workshop through the Goethe-Insitut Kenya, winning the opportunity to curate her proposition entitled Remote in October 2017. Her exhibition was about the psychological effects of not belonging. It featured artwork by award-winning artists including Maral Bolouri, Jackie Karuti and Asteria Malinzi.

Keeping a low profile, Zihan continues to facilitate projects within the arts. Collectors visit her personal studio while clients commission new artwork. She produces affordable prints of select paintings on demand. Away from the anarchy of city life, she works on her artwork, writing and art-furniture under Adeo. Her ears still perk for an extraordinary venture where she can contribute her expertise, or curate a compelling exhibition.

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