Moish brings Kenya to Somerset

MOISH Sokal, the Australian-born painter who has lived in Somerset for many years, celebrates his travels in Kenya with the work on show in his annual summer exhibition, at East Lambrook Manor, near South Petherton until 223rd July.

The exhibition was nearly washed away by the major floods in Australia, shortly after he returned to his homeland for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

“I was so moved to stand on Bondi Beach again, I was almost crying,” he says. Travelling to northern New South Wales, he settled into a familiar routine of morning swims and painting watercolours inspired by his recent trip to Kenya.

And then the rains came, growing stronger, louder and heavier, day and day. Six days of unending rain led to unprecedented floods which were even threatening Moish’s flat.

“I hurriedly put all the paintings on the highest shelves and left to spend a worried night at an evacuation centre.” When the floods finally receded he was relieved to find his paintings had escaped the water.

“I had arrived in Nairobi in the pouring rain too. The first adventure out was to feed giraffes face to face.
Facing these elegant animals, gently flapping long eyelashes as they stick out a huge blue tongue taking the food off your hand is an unforgettable experience.”

He visited the Sheldrick elephant orphanage watching playful baby elephants sucking milk from very large milk bottles, and then travelled to the Maasai Mara wildlife park.

“The sights were breathtaking. A lioness with her six cubs greeted us by the roadside! … lions in the bush, lioness feeding her cubs, lions everywhere.”

Moish continued through the Great Rift Valley to the lakes in Naivasha and Nakuru wildlife parks where he stayed in a hut by the lake surrounded by an abundance of birds – pelicans, flamingos, great egret and fish eagles perched high up in the trees.

One memorable sight was a big herd of buffalo with a huge grey beast in their midst – “A white rhino, with a young one too, one of the most endangered animals around.”

On the way to Thompsons Falls Moish achieved a long-held wish to cross the equator by land: “Watching the water turning clockwise down the drain and six metres south the water turned anti-clockwise was an extraordinary experience. A thin line of only 12 metres wide marks the equator.”

The next destination was Amboseli wildlife park,s home for Africa’s largest elephants, some displaying huge tusks.

“The rich grasslands provide ample food for the grazers – zebra, wildebeest, giraffes, buffalo, gazelles feed well but so do the big cats lurking in the long grass. The first sight of a cheetah family feasting was unforgettable, cheetah cubs playing in the tall grass, an elusive pair of lions courting in the middle distance, and all this with the iconic backdrop of snow-capped Mt Kilimanjaro rising high above the plain.”

The final destination was old Mombasa, with its decaying yellow-painted buildings, with their rich heritage of Omani, Arabic, Portuguese and British influence, fish markets, spice markets and mosques, and porters loading wooden dhows bound for Zanzibar.

Postcards from Kenya will be at the Malthouse Gallery, East Lambrook Manor Gardens, from Saturday 4th June to Saturday 23rd July.

Pictured: Floods in New South Wales; a ranger bottle-feeding an orphaned baby elephant.