/ 22 August 2014

Rubbish puts art in its place

Rod McGregor Mann and Alta Classen have reduced their average monthly electricity bill to R55 at their Kleinemonde home.
Rod McGregor Mann and Alta Classen have reduced their average monthly electricity bill to R55 at their Kleinemonde home.

Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru is a painter and sculptor best known for his Afro-futurism series, C-Stunners, an ongoing project consisting of elaborate eyeglasses that are imaginatively constructed out of found objects and recycled trash.

These wearable sculptures – part fashion statement, part sociopolitical commentary – capture the sensibility and attitude of the youth in Nairobi. They portray the aspirations of popular culture bling and reflect the ingenuity and resourcefulness of people. The lenses are a metaphorical filter, providing a fresh perspective on the world.

Where did your journey as an artist begin?

I’m an artist who works in different mediums, mostly giving trash a second chance. I started making art when I was young, making the things I wanted but wasn’t allowed. My dad never allowed me to have real glasses because when he had a pair his mother beat him when they broke, and so he had hated glasses ever since. This is why I started making glasses from pieces of trash.

What appeals to you about working with found objects?

I like working with found and unfound materials because I can’t help seeing the inherent creativity in all things. When I walk around where I live I always see trash, and this is why I decided to give use to it in my art, to make it into another life.

What is your creative process – do you start with sketches? How does your artwork take shape?

I don’t follow sketches but I must have an idea before I start. Sometimes materials dictate a piece of work, but all of my work has a story behind it. I have a prison series where I design the glasses related to different prisons – Mongolian prison, Madiba prison and Kenyan prison. I also have a boobs series where I have figuratively designed American boobs, Kenyan boobs, Indian boobs, etcetera.

In what ways do the C-Stunners artworks depict the world you see around you?

The C-Stunners are about seeing the world in a different way. We always see the world through plastics (normal glasses), but by using different materials I am changing this view.

You also did paintings based on the C-Stunners series. What was the idea behind this project?

I am doing self-portraits based on my C-Stunners artworks using recycled canvases. I use newspaper for this because I like the idea of putting a painting on top of a story; everyone loves a good story.

What inspires your work?

I am inspired by everything, especially nature – birds, trees, water, places, as well as many other things.

Your work has a sense of humour to it. Is this something that you think is important for art?

That’s how I am, and so to me it’s important in my work. It makes people happy and they love my work.

What is most important to you about being creative and making art?

Everyone can make art. What is important is to be creative and think outside the box.

What art pieces will you be showing at the FNB Joburg Art Fair?

I’ll be showing my C-Stunners and some paintings.

Will you be attending the art fair? What are you most excited about, being part of the art fair?

I’m visiting Jo’burg before the art fair but I won’t be at the actual fair. I am excited to be a part of it because of the publicity and more people being able to get to know/see my work.

What other project are you busy working on?

I am busy with a bicycle series, which you will see soon.

This is adapted from an interview with Cyrus Kabiru on Between 10and5, www.10and5.com