Posts Tagged Nairobi

Cyrus Kabiru’s Metaphorical Vision

Cyrus Kabiru | Caribbean Sun | 2012

Cyrus Kabiru is one of the most exciting of the younger artists to have emerged from Nairobi over the last few years. Kabiru recently completed his first international exhibition at Kuntspodium T Gallery in Tilburg, Holland which included an installation of his signature “C Stunner glasses” made from recycled materials – each with its own story – together creating a powerful metaphor for the way Africa is perceived by the outside world and vice versa. Kabiru’s “glasses” have been featured in Africa’s leading fashion and Arts Magazine, Arise and he has been nominated for awards by the Sandbox network for young innovators. His work seems to symbolise the aspirations of a continent reassessing itself whilst being reassessed by the rest of the world.

Cyrus Kabiru | Revolution|2011

There are innumerable artists in Africa who work with recycled materials, metals, plastic, paper etc – among them some distinguished sculptors such as Romuald Hazoume of Benin, Bertiers  of Kenya and Olu Amoda of Nigeria but it is refreshing to find a young “untrained”artist coolly displaying a  fascination with a single multifaceted theme that we see in Cyrus Kabiru’s surreal and phantasmagorical creations. When I first saw Kabiru’s deceptively humorous work – I was struck by the similarity in seriousness to the works of Hazoume who has continuously found new and extraordinary ways of using the jerry can as a profound metaphor for life in Africa.

 Kabiru has been creating his “spectacles” since childhood when he started to produce toys for his age-mates as a way of bartering his way through school work. The origins of his obsession with “glasses” stem from his father’s neurosis about them (in turn caused by the fact that Cyrus’s  grandfather punished his son severely when, as a boy, he lost a pair of  glasses that the family had made great sacrifices to provide him with).  It is a universal story of poverty and the struggle to overcome it. Cyrus’s father – scarred by his father’s fury when his attempts to help his son with his eyesight came to nought. The father, still mired in poverty, instilling in his son, Cyrus, a bizarre reverence for the thing he himself lost through carelessness – the young son responding to this creatively and instinctively  – by recreating again and again, the object of his father’s pain and his grandfather’s hope and frustration. In so doing, creating a living folk tale through finding fame and fortune through his “glasses” sufficient to lift him out of the poverty that his father and grandfather struggled to overcome.   

Cyrus Kabiru | Owl| 2012

This is the psychological background to the C-Stunners series but the works are rich in social comment too. Each with its own story from glasses with bars that evoke the jails of Nairobi to those with spent bullets that tell their story of criminal or police brutality. Also a love for nature that fuels the artist’s desire to recycle as part of a process of protecting the environment.

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