Game of Checkers
Artist Jacob Ezigbo
Jacob Ezigbo, from 1975 – present day, Nairobi, Kenya.
Village Philosophers by Jacob Ezigbo.
A Game of Checkers in the Mathare slums.
“My paintings are the only voice which I have and which I
sometimes hide behind, as people who live in Mathare don’t
really have a voice. What we have is poverty; we lack health care,
education and other basic amenities. We are at the bottom of the
food chain; this means that many people here still dye of
treatable sicknesses such as Malaria, TB and Typhoid as well
as preventable sickness such as HIV/Aids. Police brutality,
ethnic and political violence and corruption is the norm here.
Many officials, who are supposed to keep the peace and protect
the people, actually prey on the ignorance and lack of education
in the area. There is never a lack of inspiration to paint!”
- The East African artist has been drawing and painting
since early childhood and “cannot
recall a time he was not drawing or painting”.
- Artist Jacob Ezigbo's full name is
Jacob Njoroge Wachira, but he adopted the
name Ezigbo (ezigbo means “the
good one” from the Ibo community
of Nigeria) and he now signs all of his
artwork ‘ Jacob
- Upon completion of elementary and high
school, Jacob Ezigbo studied graphic design
at The Kenya Polytechnic in Nairobi and
in 1998, he made a decision to become a
full time artist, so at that time Ezigbo
joined the Kuona Trust, wherein his existing
world was opened up to many new exciting
challenges and unique experiences.
- A favorite pastime was to create murals
in a palette of vivid, bold colors on the
walls of the Mathare homes; Mathare is
a gigantic slum district in Nairobi where
Jacob was born and spent his childhood
and despite the poverty of the area, Jacob
Ezigbo has many fond memories of his
youthful times there; although he has traveled
about the globe, his heart remained in
Mathare and as a result, Jacob Ezigbo chose
to return to live in Mathare, where his
presence and teaching can have a positive
effect on its inhabitants.
- Artist Jacob Ezigbo's inspiration
comes from his daily encounters with people
and their life experiences; he sees the
way people interact in relationships with
one another and love, romance, politics,
friendship and religion have become prevalent
themes within his artistic expression and
themes, which he depicts in oil on canvas
mostly, though mixed media is also used.
- Neighbor’s artist style is a blend
of Abstract and Impressionism or as he
paints he sometimes changes his representation
to a combination of Abstract and Figurative.
- In his painting, ‘Village Philosophers’,
game of checkers artist Jacob Ezigbo's
inherent theme is a game of checkers being
played in the Mathare slums by a group
of men, who are unemployed laborers.
- The checkers game is a natural scene
for the artist as draughts or checkers
is a very popular activity in Nairobi.
- The game of checkers around the checkerboard
may even involve the exchange of money
at times and the successful checkers winner
or champion is called the “Fundi”,
which translates to ‘skilled
- “This is just an
analogy to life, and if they can only use their knowledge,
they can make their life better.”
- Artist Jacob Ezigbo's checkers theme
shows the viewer that the inherent skills
within the challenging play at the checkerboard
has the potential to help individuals develop
their abilities in such a way that they
may also improve their lot in life’s
- The genre realism hidden within the Abstract
Impressionistic style of artist Ezigbo
is full of quiet symbolism and meaning.
- In 2002, the Ruth Hunt Wood Foundation granted
the “Best Artist
Award” in Kenya to Jacob Ezigbo, and
later in 2006, he was able to pursue an opportunity
to study art for a semester and instruct at the
University of Kentucky and Somerset Community College;
during that time, he grew as an artist in his own right
through a unique chance to interact with the faculty of
both institutions as well as with other artists of the area.
- Artist Ezigbo was also provided with
the opportunity to host a solo exhibition
of his artwork at the John Tuska Gallery
in Lexington, Kentucky before returning home to Kenya.
- Between 2002 and 2007, checkers artist
Jacob Ezigbo has participated in
numerous group shows as well as several
solo exhibitions in Kenya, Britain and the U.S.
- One of his greatest achievements that has arisen from his
own personal experience of the profound effect that
art has on society, especially in the development of
self esteem and skills of young children, is Ezigbo’s
foundation of Watoto Wa Kwetu or
‘Children of the
Neighborhood’ in 2004, where he offered free
art workshops to local children from his home in Mathare.
- Watoto Wa Kwetu eventually became an
official Trust in 2006, which continues
to grow today, providing free artist workshops
to hundreds of children with instruction
in painting, photography, film, music,
drama, and poetry as well as an opportunity
to participate in other activities such
as checkers that may also have a profound
effect on these young minds and their ambitions
to a better life in the future.