The True Lier | Joseph Bertiers | 2013 | Oil on canvas | 90 x 100cm
When I first visited Joseph Bertiers in Nairobi we had met by the main Dagoretti road and drove together towards his house – I had no idea what to expect and was greeted by a walled compound with a large smart looking gate – we paused outside as Bertiers gestured to what look like an “askari” (a guard) just visible inside. The guard turned out to be one of Bertiers’ many life-sized scrap metal sculptures that adorn his garden. This was the first of many jokes. Even his name is a joke. He renamed himself Bertiers from the original Mbatia to see if having a European name would boost his art sales – it did apparently – though that was in another era. Perhaps he should change it back? But that wouldn’t be funny – so he wont.
The painting you see here is a rollocking expose of a type of corrupt and venal pastor that plagues the African continent and many other parts of the globe. This painting was inspired by revelations about the Fire Gospel Ministry in Kenya where a pastor had been caught paying women to fake illness so that they could be miraculously cured. Bertiers depicts the realities of sexual harassment and the sheer lies and hypocrisy peddled by these “true liers”.
In the words of the artist:
The time has come for people to realize that they are
conned, cheated and given no spiritual healing at all. Although they take their time, these people who pretend to be spiritually superior to their congregations enrich themselves through the poor exploiting the fact that religion is the opium of the people, as Karl Marx the philosopher said.
Bertiers is an increasingly successful and acclaimed artist. His work was recently featured in the Financial Times and his work is in several major collections in Europe and the U.S.A..