Cyrus Kabiru is a self-taught Kenyan artist who works in various mediums including painting and sculpture. He is best known for his Afrofuturism 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 social-political commentary, capture the sensibility and attitude of the youth generation in Nairobi. They portray the aspiration of popular culture bling and reflect the ingenuity and resourcefulness of people. The lenses are a metaphorical filter providing a fresh perspective of the world.
Please can you tell us a little about yourself and background as an artist…
I’m an artist who works with different mediums, mostly giving trash a second chance. I started making art when I was young to make 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.
Please can you tell us about your creative process – do you start with sketches, an idea, assembling pieces, etc. – how does a work take shape?
I don’t follow sketches but I must have an idea before I start. Sometime materials dictate a piece of work, but all of my work has a story behind it. For example, I have a prison series whereby I design the glasses related to different prisons e.g. Mongolian prison, Madiba prison and Kenyan prison. I also have a boobs series where I have figuratively designed American boobs, Kenyan boobs, Indian boobs etc.
What first gave you the idea to start making the glasses that are now collectively known as the C-Stunners?
I need to have a story and a reason of making art, and that story changes every day.
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.
Please tell us about the new paintings you are doing from the C-Stunners series…
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 because everyone loves a good story.
What influences and 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 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 works 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 Joburg before the Art Fair but I wont be at the 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.
Anything else you would like to add…
I am busy with a bicycle series, which you will see soon.
Find out ore about Cyrus’ work via SMAC Art Gallery.
All images: Copyright Cyrus Kabiru, courtesy of SMAC Art Gallery, Stellenbosch, South Africa.