Famous art collector Alan Donovan buried in Athi River
Hundreds of friends, artists and government officials gathered at the African Heritage House in Kitengela, Machakos County, to bury renowned art collector and promoter Alan Donovan on Tuesday.
Led by Sports, Heritage and Arts CS Amina Mohammed, mourners paid glowing tributes to a man who was born in Colorado 83 years ago but found joy and peace in promoting heritage African and African art here in Kenya.
Dr Amina recalled that she met Alan earlier in his training stages as a diplomat in Geneva Switzerland.
“I was the one who helped the SGR move away from African heritage lands and save the house from being demolished,” Amina said.
She praised Alan’s work and hoped he would be kept alive by remembering how every African heritage dress she wore was such a sight wherever she went.
Ojay Hakim spoke passionately about his 15 years of experience working with Alan Donovan, remembering him as a caring and humble person.
Ojay, who saw African Heritage House grow from scratch, joined the company as an intern and later became the Creative Director at their Nairobi premises and in 1988.
He recalled how Alan was immersed in expressions of African music, food, design, clothing and home decor.
International model Khadija Adams said Alan discovered her and encouraged her to become a model by telling her how beautiful she was.
“Today I’m wearing what Alan designed for me in his memory,” she said.
The Jabali Africa brothers of Joseck and Justine Asikoye owe their success to Alan Donovan.
They first met Alan at the Paa Ya Paa Cultural Center and immediately formed a relationship that would last for years.
“He gave a concert every Saturday and Sunday and we became a permanent star of African Heritage Ltd on Kenyatta Avenue. In 1995 he took us on a European tour and instead of coming back to Kenya he took us to the United States for another tour,” Asikoye said.
Today, Jabali is permanently based in the United States and has just earned an Emmy Award nomination.
“Alan’s death is a blow to me, especially for African culture and the preservation of African heritage. The question is whether we will put ourselves in his shoes and continue the work. Alan made you love Africa and made you love who you are,” cried Asikoye who, along with her brother Justin, performed at the funeral.
Nyatiti man Kake Wakake has also performed many numbers including Lowo in Dholuo.
The song is a dirge cursing the ground for consuming the lives of so many good people among us.
Wakake just had Alan’s old Nyatiti repaired a fortnight ago and Donovan promised to have a nice costume for Wakake for his future performances.
“Now I am here to play his last event on earth without the clothes he promised. Death is such a sting,” Wakake lamented.
Alumni of African heritage include Ayub ogada, Gido Kibukosya, Jack Odongo, Khadija Adams, Emma Too, Catherine Karl, Lois Mutua and Agnes Alando.
Alan had many programs that helped hundreds of artists achieve their dreams, including hosting beauty pageants, fashion shows, music tours, and promoting artists.
Alan died before completing his pet project of creating a fund that would continue to help older artists.
While Alan is most closely associated with African heritage, he was responsible for curating the ground floor of the National Archives and Gallery in Nairobi.
He attempted to turn part of Nairobi City Park into a sculpture garden where the works of four of Murumbi’s favorite sculptors were on permanent display.
Prior to coming to Kenya, Alan had worked in Nigeria as a relief worker with the Department of State in 1957.
He quit in 1968 and became involved with artists there, including Muraina Oyelami from Oshogbo.
After the death of the Vice President of Kenya and his wife Sheila in 1990 and 2000 respectively, he ran African Heritage Ltd on his own and in 2003 the company disappeared.
He registered the African Heritage House which he ran until his death.
He is survived by his sister Marylin Cornish of Colorado.