The Student
The Rafiki Gallery at Apothecary Bar
by Kitty Golden, 9/10/19

The Rafiki Gallery, a new pop-up exhibition movement that raised its head in the Apothecary Bar last week, is light and welcoming. Leo Sartain, the gallery’s owner, is aware of the unapproachable and exclusive aura of many contemporary galleries, and made fantastic use of light and space in his mission to open up the art world to any and everybody who wants to get involved.

The gallery hosted a broad range of emerging Edinburgh artists – some current ECA students, some ECA graduates, and others from further afield – who utilised a myriad of artistic mediums, from lino printing to t-shirts.

Pip Denham, recent ECA graduate, had several of his sculptural pieces featured. His works are multifarious, varying massively in style and subject matter. Those on display ranged from Science Class, a gold mummified frog aiming to question the success of acquiring human progress through sacrifice, to War Meds II, a glass sculpture commenting on the US’s pharmaceutical industry and its unhelpful and uncaring prescribing of drugs to veterans.

What is really striking about Sartain’s new exhibition is the personal connection he has with all the artists. The Rafiki Gallery endeavours to work with artists who have struggled to be recognised by other artistic institutions, creating a friendly and approachable environment both for creators and attendees. And though the gallery itself has evolved from a simple art blog to a more commercial market gallery, Sartain has maintained his creative outlet, with the exhibition featuring one of his own works. On top of this, he has written feature pieces on art in the gallery’s Rafiki Talks Art section.


In the broader perspective, the Rafiki Gallery hopes, through exhibitions and events in contemporary venues, to widen the scope of artistic interest by enthusing those who are not traditionally part of the art world to delve into it. The gallery’s focus on emerging artists helps create a sense of equality between all, and breaks down the traditional barriers between artist, gallery, and viewer, ultimately emphasising a sense of inclusivity.

Last week’s debut exhibition had a wonderful reception, engendering a passionate optimism for the future of the Rafiki gallery.

Image: Kitty Golden