So the first time I ‘meet’ Gathinja, she smiling at me from a picture. Yes, you guessed right. The picture above. And then I send her an email immediately because I stole some beautiful paintings from her exotic collections alias True African Art gallery and had to report my theft. (And yes, I take copyrights and permissions seriously. You should too). I found an artist and a friend.
A warm and attentive woman with a heart for Art, Gathinja is not just an artist but an intelligent and shrewd business woman (She knows what I am talking about.lols) and while there was no “Jambo na karibu!” – meaning Hello and welcome in Swahili, we did hit it off. The rest is history they say. I met a beautiful spirit and I would like you all to meet her. A tour of her site would do any art lover good as it feels like an exhibition of………okay, I am going to stop now.
Unen: Can you please tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Gathinja Yamokoski. I am the owner of True African Art .Com, an online gallery featuring hundreds of original African art paintings for sale by 60 African Artists. I was born and raised in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, East Africa. I have close ties to my country and family. My last name, “Yamokoski” comes from my American husband who I married in 2002 after he lived and worked in Kenya in 2000-2001. Despite living in New York since 2002, I have travelled back to Africa for about a month almost every year to visit my family, friends, and artists. Keeping in touch with my homeland is very important to me as I love Kenya. I have also found solace and enlightenment in the diversity in the United States. I admire that diversity greatly.
More About GATHINJA YAMOKOSKI and her works.
Unen: What is your definition of African Art?
I would have to say that African Art is a direct reflection of the cultures found within. I have curated literally thousands of paintings, and many of them contain the theme of working African women. I take that as an expression of the African woman as being the backbone of the African continent, working hard to ensure her family’s needs and wants are met. African art is also very abstract at times, with vibrant colors in much of its work. When asking the artists what they are trying to portray through the colors, many of them say they are showing the positive side of life in Africa and are trying to portray exuberant feelings of happiness for the person viewing their artwork.
Paintings of Sarah Shiundu
Unen: Do tell us about True African Art. What inspired it?
True African Art was inspired by an online void of a solid, well designed website that puts its artists first. We pay our artists well for their work. In return, we do not exploit their pricing when compared to the rest of the art world. Our prices are much lower in comparison. We back this up with a Lowest Price Guarantee . We still have a lot of ideas for an even more deserving website. Now we are most often the online choice for original African paintings because of the keen and caring support for our clients questions, purchasing options, and timely, free worldwide delivery process.
Currently, True African Art is the leading online gallery for buying original African paintings. We’ve had about 1,500 paintings come through our gallery in just over a few years. From those, only a few hundred remain, the rest have sold This includes many copies of Kenya’s Blue Rhino Map prints and small, original painting postcards from Ghana and Kenya. You can read about philosophy of selling African artwork here and about the website through our Home Page.
Unen: Prior to launching True African Art. Com in 2009, what art projects were you involved in?
As an artist, back in Kenya, I would tailor clothes for my mom and my friends. When I was dating my now husband, I would make art as gifts for him almost every week. So I was always making and looking at art. After moving to the USA, I kept making art and knew another Kenyan-American couple who gave me the opportunity to work with selling African paintings online and I excelled at that. I am grateful for that role. Unfortunately, the ideas I had to better their website were turned down multiple times. I had so much enthusiasm and belief that the ideas would work! They were still denied. So I was encouraged by the owner to start my own website. I took his advice and am glad I did!
Unen: What was the response like when first launched True African Art. Com?
Well, we got our first sale in just about 1 week after opening the site. At the time it was at a very different design, but fully functional. Soon after we had other artists contacting us to be on the site.
Unen: Is there criteria for becoming an artist on True African Art. Com? What are they?
Our records show that we’ve had 87 African artists submit their art to be on our website, but only 20 of those had the quality and communication skills required for such an international relationship. We need to know that the artist is not only a very skilled artist whose work is different than others, but also that they are timely in delivering paintings to us and answer our calls and texts appropriately.
Also, we can’t buy from everyone all the time. So we often have to tell prospective artists to wait until we are ready to buy more stock. If they are already on the website and they ask us to buy more paintings from them, we sometimes have to wait until their stock depletes more. We have artists from Africa whom we have returned to five times over, while others whom we have bought from, none or only a few of their paintings have sold so we have to have them wait until their stock depletes more before we buy more paintings from them. To see what we officially require from artists, it’s all on the True African Art .Com here.
Unen: I suppose a major challenge is in the distribution of purchased works. What channels have you put in place for worldwide delivery and how efficient are they?
Actually, it is very easy. For an African painting for sale that a client wants to buy, they just click the “Add to Cart” button found underneath the painting. This takes them to True African Art’s online shopping cart where they confirm their delivery options. Then, on the next page, the secure Checkout Page, they enter their contact information. They can choose to enter their financial information directly through a credit card or through Pay Pal. For Pay Pal, the Internet’s secure standard for online purchases, a client does not even need to be a member or sign up to use it, they can use it just as a Guest. Either method does not show us their credit card details, but instead, just passes along their payment and shipping address. From there we professionally pack their African paintings, take them to the Post Office, get insurance on the package and then within a week the client receives their artwork. Internationally, packages arrive in about 2 weeks, more or less. The Post Office has never lost a painting or damaged a package. If a customer requests it, they can employ DHL, Fed Ex, or UPS, but they have to pay the carrier costs for those packages. We do not profit from those costs and rarely are they requested as the US Postal Service we offer is at no cost to the client, whether ordering from inside or outside the USA.
Unen: Where do you see True African Art. Com in the next 10 years?
With more staff, more artists, more clients, and more experience to continue delivering the best of service and the best of African art for sale.
Unen: What is your favorite pastime?
I like to spend time with my husband, watch TV, read, and talk to friends, family, and artists. I am drawn to anything African!
Unen: What is your take on the commercialization of Art as it experienced now? Is art still the message or is it about how fast it sells?
Well, everyone likes a sale! But what sells is what counts. Are you selling cartoon paintings that will fade over time or are you selling quality work that in the next 100 years, someone will look at it and say, “Wow, where did this painting come from?!” We’d like those paintings to come from True African Art. The art you are currently seeing coming from us and in the future is taking a major shift from commercial art to more collectibles that are harder to find and easier to appreciate.
Unen: How best do we change Africa through Art?
By keeping the message positive. When art is recognized as something that is joyful and not a sad or controversial theme, then it will continue to reflect the momentum of the continent as being a positive force in the world in the face of poverty, disease, and war. True African Art is a platform that stands for this and the faith and love we have for our brothers and sisters in Mama Africa and around the world.
Unen: Thank you for your time Gathinja. We hope to have you here again and very soon too.
For more information on how you can be a True African Artist or get works, visit True African Art .Com.
From me to you,