Cyrus Kabiru is a mixed media artist from Kenya. He is the genius behind the C-Stunner eye wear which he makes out of recycled materials. He went from being a rebel and an outcast, to being a recognised artist and role model in his community. His famous C-Stunners are currently on display at the Fashion Space Gallery in London as part of the Framed! Contemporary Eye wear in Fashion exhibition and he is a TEDGlobal 2012 Fellow.
SM: Who is Cyrus Kabiru?
CK: I am an artist from Kenya. I don’t like to say Kenyan artist because I feel like that wouldn’t allow me to be international. As far as my art goes, I am a painter, sculptor and I design eye wear. I work with recycled materials and give trash a second chance.
SM: By eye wear you mean the C-stunners? Where did your fascination for glasses come from?
CK: It started when I was young. My dad had an eye problem and his mother bought him a pair of glasses which fell at one time and broke. He got in big trouble and he hated them after that, so much that he said he didn’t want to see glasses ever again. On the other hand, I was fascinated by them. To me glasses were for rich people, and wearing them gave me a sense of empowerment because I wanted to feel what they were feeling and to see what/how they were seeing. I also thought pretty ladies wore glasses. It was a status thing.
So early on I stated making them, with whatever I could find in the house. Spoons, forks, wire anything. My dad told me that if I was going to make them I needed to give him the story behind each one of them. To this day, there is a story behind every pair I make.
SM: What was your childhood like?
CK: I didn’t perform well in school. In fact I would exchange art for homework with other kids. I was always the kid parents would name as the bad example. I didn’t cut my hair, I would wear my weird glasses and I was basically the example of what to not be like. When I was done with high school, my father wanted me to study electronic engineering but I wasn’t interested, I continued to pursue my art and moved out of the community who shunned me. Years later I am now a role model in the same community. I am the person parents now tell their children they should be like.
SM: Where do you get your materials from?
CK: I walk a lot, I love nature so I pick things up as I go.
SM: Between the painting and the sculpting, which one is your favourite?
CK: I like them all. I just choose to do different things at different times depending on my mood. I tend to paint at night.
SM: How much do you sell your pieces for?
CK: When I started out I would sell pieces as low as Ksh 5000. Right now the cheapest piece is Ksh 20,000 and the most expensive is Ksh 100,000.
SM: What impact would you like to have with your art?
CK: Art is everything. Anything is possible in this life. When I was in high school all the gangsters from the neighbourhood would come look at my work and they would be still. They never said anything about it, but I could tell it changed them a little.
SM: I understand you teach in different communities?
CK: Because of my passion for saving the environment, I teach people how to work with the recycled materials so that they do not only depend on nature. I like to travel to different parts of the country doing this.
SM: What advice do you have for the youth or other up and coming artists?
CK: Sell creativity instead of poverty and be the best at what you are.
SM: What do you mean by sell creativity instead of poverty?
CK: People use the slums to get funding or will tell their story so people will feel sorry for them and buy their work. I say create and let people buy your work because of where it comes from and not where you come from.
|Hanging out with Cyrus in his studio|