My Community

As a single mother for a part of my life, I know first hand how challenging it can be to obtain a steady income. One of my former employees passed away as a result of HIV-AIDS. During that time, I felt that she needed to do something else that would occupy her time and earn an income, yet also keep her spirit and self-esteem high. The solution was beading.


Most importantly, this craft allowed her to earn additional income to support her kids. Over the years, I have trained approximately 10 single mothers and their children to produce beadwork for my greeting cards, tin cans, bottles, and wall hanging designs. As such, I’m more than happy to continue this initiative since it creates a possitive outcome on so many levels.

More pics will be added later to the gallery that will highlight the beadwork created by these talented individuals.

SATURDAY Magazine: Vanishing Jungle

The vanishing jungle

Having previously painted in the tranquility of singing birds and stray lions, fine artist Theodora Stone laments that, with the increasing human encroachment of the Nairobi National Park, this serenity is quickly fading. By BENSON KIMATHI

When Theodora Stone first moved into her house in Ongata Rongai, just next to the Nairobi National Park, her home was a jungle habitat. At the time, 10 years ago, this place was the perfect residence for a fine artist, who liked and still loves to live and work away from the distractions of modern civilization.

When I first paid her a visit in 2001, and again in 2005, this bushy neighbourhood, located about 20kn from Nairobi, was a haven of peace. Only one or tow lone houses could be seen in the vicinity. Antelopes grazed in the foreground. An occasional giraffe galloped right before our eyes. Venturing into the tall grass, I recall feeling that a large cat might leap at us from the bushes.

Today, as I disembark from a vehicle on Magadi Road, the first observation I make is that a collection of commercial motorcycles camps on the dirt road that leads to Theo’s place. This is a new development. During my last visit three years before, there was no form of public transport here.

It is a bumpy, windy and dusty ride to Theo’s house. As Newton navigates the bike past the treacherous configuration of stones and potholes that pad the road, I ask: “When did you motorcycle people come to this place?”

“About a year ago,” he answers and explains that there has been much development here. Look at all these buildings that are coming up,” he adds. “Many people are moving away from the city to this place.”

After getting off and paying up, I watch as Newton rides off, having giving me his cell phone number so I can call him to pick me after my interview with Theo. Although there are signs that more people now live in the neighbourhood, the place is still quiet and serene. The few sounds that one picks in this deserted grassland include the twitter of birds high up the trees and the chirping of crickets. There is also the occasional drone of planes that are taking off or landing at the nearby Wilson Airport.

As before, the vast carpet of wild pasture, acacia and shrubs spreads before my eyes. Sadly, this time there is no antelope or giraffe anywhere in sight – and there won’t be any for the rest of my four-hour stay at Theo’s place.

Suddenly, Theo materialises. She is still the small-bodied, gracious woman I remember. She’s dressed in a white blouse and a brown skirt. Her hair falls with simple elegance to her shoulders. After exchanging pleasantries, she motions me to a plastic chair, one of several that are set around a simple folding table, just outside her house.

Wedged between the branches of the tree under which we sit is the skull of a zebra, one of several that Theo picks in the neighbourhood and uses as adornments around the house. Visible through the house’s casement window are metal models of birds Theo has painstakingly painted to a realistic finish.

As we catch up on the years gone by, Theo briefly talks about the human encroachment on Nairobi National Park. “You know what is sad?” she asks: “It is the development that is slowly pushing the wildlife away.” The animals of the park, which were once regular visitors in this home don’t come any more.” The only thing we get are antelopes and impalas. And if they come, it is only at night.” Of the hyenas, she says, “We only hear them.”

She turns and points to a pit within her compound and talks fondly about three spitting cobras that were once regular visitors to her home. “I have not seen them in a while,” she says, discernibly saddened. Theo also reminisces about a donkey that was once grazing just outside her fence. A lion, she recalls, came and grabbed the donkey. Luckily, one of the Maasais in the neighbourhood shouted until the lion released the donkey and ran off. The donkey was left with neck injuries, “but survived.”

She almost jumps to her feet when, as we talk, there is a rustle of leaves a few metres away and an animal slowly takes shape. “Look, it’s the mongoose! He is back!” Once the animal emerges fully, however, Theo’s jaw drops. “It was only a squirrel,” she says cheerlessly.

A reserved artist
Theo is a reserved, exceptional artist who hardly ever discloses her thoughts and feelings. Even in the briefest of interactions, one quickly discerns her reserved nature. When she speaks, she chooses her words carefully, and then is not easily drawn into mundane subjects. Theodora is almost bored by enthusiastic talk about everyday conveniences like cell phones, the Internet and motor vehicle technology. She uses technology, yes, but only as a means to an end, not as a tool of luxury.

Belying the demeanour of reticence, however, is a gifted artist and spiritually inclined woman from whom the younger generation can learn a lot about life and living.

She says what takes the fun out of living is the trait of neediness that has become endemic in our modern way of life. “We have too many conditions, expectations and needs.” Life, she says, is a spiritual journey. “People have become removed from themselves and are more needy because they have lost touch with nature. I am very concerned about what we have done to our planet and what we are leaving behind for our children.”

“Look at us cutting forests and shoving fossil fuels in the air!”

Set under the tree outside her house are two ceramic bowls that Theo placed there for the many birds that are her welcome neighbours. One bowl is filled with water. On the other are crumbs and food placed there for the birds. These birds form a major theme of Theo’s artwork.

The interior of her house is bedecked with all manner of artwork. In one corner are many cartons filled with tiles, which, once painted, will go into the swimming pool of a hotel in Mombasa. There is also a mural of a Maasai family. This is ready and awaiting collection. She motions me to a different section of the wall and explains that the painting there is a “mixed media”, made up of a patchwork of realistic and abstract art.

A prolific artist, Theo privately works for discerning Nairobian among them prominent businessmen. She has also done a large mural for Nairobi’s Fairview Hotel, and countless other commissioned artworks, large and small. She has also painted on utensils, on greetings cards and on lampshades.

Unlike the last time I was here, however, she now has no painted ostrich eggs, which for many are the catchiest piece of art. One of her eggs, for instance, bore the realistic-looking painting of an Egyptian vulture whose claws were crafted to deceive the eye, so that the claws appeared to have grabbed the egg on which they were painted. On another egg she had painted a dung beetle that was in the process of edging its way through animal dung.

Theo, a Greek and her husband moved to Kenya in 1972, having relocated from Uganda, where her Greek father, Theodore Spyropoulos, had first moved to prospect for gold. It was in 1998 that she moved to Ongata Rongai, where she continues to live today. Besides having very strong feelings about art, the environment, conservation and life choices in general, she has lately broken from her solitary of art and has reached out to HIV-positive women to share her skills and knowledge, and to inculcate in them the spirit of self-reliance.

At about 3pm, Newton’s bike roars to a stop outside Theo’s house. As I leave, I am quietly aware that when I come next, if at all, the vegetation may be no more, and Theo may have moved away in search of the next tranquil neighbourhood to carry on with her life of art and painting.

mail@BensonKimathi.com

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Credits:
Title: The Vanishing Jungle | Section: She’s Got It
Publication: SATURDAY (Saturday Nation) – page 10
Date: Saturday March 7, 2009
Writer: Benson Kimathi | Location: Nairobi, Kenya
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HOME & AWAY: Best Buys

B e s t  b u y s…

JENIPHER WACHIE visited Theodora Stone, a reclusive artist who lives near Ongata Rongai. She found a stunning display of creative artwork perfect for the home and office

SPICE UP YOUR HOME WITH ART
Artistic accessories are often thought to be expensive and elitist, but this is not always the case. Art forms are produced in various shapes and as a result, are priced differently. So whatever opportunity comes your way, do not shy from adding a variety of art to your home collection.

Painted clay flowerpots are ideal for indoor as well as outdoor plants. Since the clay material is not in short supply, the pots are some of the most affordable art pieces for the house, and they are great because they have a dual purpose – to add beauty to the house while carrying the plants.

Equally, their natural aspect allows soil to breath unlike cement and plastic pots. Give your clay pots a face-lift by painting or decorating them.

Wall hangings and other handicrafts give your wall a truly stunning look. In addition, stained glass decorative lamps are exotic and versatile. These can replace candles during dinnertime and be used to lift the ambience of any room, especially at night.

If you wish to update your crockery, don’t trash them. Send a few to a decorator or artist and let him or her create a fancy impression on them. Show off the finished and place it on a display unit, on top of your music systems or at a corner stand.

By Pocyline Karani

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Credits:
Title: Best Buys
Publication: HOME & AWAY Magazine (The Standard) | Pullout Section B – page 12
Date: Thursday September 25, 2008 | Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Writer: Pocyline Karani | Photos: Jenipher Wachie / Standard (courtesy Reclusive Art, Maasai Lodge Road)

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MSANII Magazine: Theo Stone

Theo Stone: Home at last

Most people are traumatized if they are forced to leave their homes once in a lifetime; in Theo Stone’s case, there have been several forced departures.

Although her ancestors were Greek, she has never been to Greece. Born in Uganda, she had to leave after Idi Amin came to power. Her father Theodore Spyropoulos had gone to Uganda at the age of 23 to prospect for minerals in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest; he was successful. In 1971 Idi Amin expelled most of the unwanted foreigners from Uganda, but Spyropoulos remained to continue mining until ill health forced him to relocate to Nairobi in 1979. Theo and her husband had already moved to Kenya in 1972; in 1998, she moved to Kitengela where she continues to live.

Theo had lived in Kenya when she was at boarding school in Eldoret, after which she went to the Wimbledon School of Art in London where she earned the necessary credentials. But Africa was to remain her home and her inspiration.

During her time in Kenya, Theo has exhibited her work eight times, but she remains reticent. Like many artists, she complains that the business of setting up exhibitions (especially solo shows) is not only costly but time-consuming as well; her purpose in life is just to get on with her art.

People like Theo Stone are caught in a contradiction: they can’t earn enough to survive without exhibiting, but they can’t afford a secretary and a publicist to do what is necessary to put on a show. But this time around, Theo was lucky: after a decade of silence, her work, and Nairobi’s Fairview Hotel, an excellent venue for an exhibition, happily gave her a space.

Although Theo usually works very much in isolation – it’s what suits her best – she is enthusiastic about the change in the Nairobi art scene over the past decade. “There has been a lot of encouragement as a result of which there are now different ideas, different concepts,” she said.

She has been part of that change, working with single mothers who are HIV-positive, sharing her skills and knowledge and introducing them to new ways of making a living. Some of the resulting handiwork, like the Maasai beading on several of the pieces in her show, was done by these women. And their children have been occupied during the holidays making butterfly cards that Theo promotes and sells.

Her enthusiasm is infectious and is evident in the wide variety of techniques and styles she uses, in her keen eye and her sense of humour. Her subjects are mostly related to nature in one form or another. Her passion since childhood has been plants, birds, underwater creatures and insects. “My theme is conservation, and I live the way I believe.”

She has only recently succumbed to the luxury of electricity. Many of the objects in the show were “found”: recycled wine bottles and baby food tins covered with the finest beading that turns them instantly into objects d’art.

But there was work on a grand scale, too; for me, the most imposing was the painting of Maasai women – towering figures with oval-shaped heads painted from behind with the pleasing contours of curved cow horns providing a contrast to the tall vertical forms in the foreground. Theo gives the whole thing an elemental quality by covering it in a thin layer of white like a patina of dust that makes it seem timeless (it is actually with paint flicked onto the canvas with a toothbrush, but never mind! Artists are entitled to their secrets.)

The image is familiar but yet unlike any painting of Maasai you have ever seen and as far as you can imagine from the stereotypical stick-like figures you see everywhere. That is one of the advantages of working in isolation.

Theo’s work has taken her to many places – airports, bathrooms, swimming pools, private dining rooms – where her murals are very much in demand. An accomplished ceramicist, she has decorated lamps with necklaces, shells and beads as though they were human figures. “I like playing with textures,” she said, standing beside the solemn Gabbra Woman, a mixed-media piece on handmade paper. Swathed in lush materials that bring out the classic beauty of the features, the face looks down in modesty.

There is no attempt at realism; in fact none of Theo’s work could be called realistic.  In the woman’s very submissiveness there is a kind of erotic splendor. It is there as well in the colour of the flowers, their rich reds and yellows that draw the viewer to them. Who among us wants to inhabit a world of grey concrete and straight lines, you can’t help asking yourself? In Nairobi, we are witnessing the systematic destruction of nature, and interesting old building are being replaced by solid square blocks that offend the eye. Theo’s work is a welcome respite from that.

Yet the style of Gabbra Woman is very different from what Theo calls her period of “bacteria” painting in which she tended to concentrate on highly intricate representations of reptiles, beetles and moths discovered in Kitengela. “I don’t kill them,” she hastened to add. “It’s just what I find.”

She makes them appear exquisite; the gold-beaded scorpion or the multitude of chameleons and lizards that crawl all over lampshades, gourds, and large painted eggs in driftwood holders.

Entirely self-taught, Theo insists that artists have to change and develop as their sense of themselves grows. “The language of the soul is the arts,” she declared. “Without us there is not soul. We bring people together.”

Behind her is a collage of Maasai necklaces forming concentric blue circles on a dark pink cloth background. All around is a riot of colour, design, texture and form. A small woman of great vitality, Theo she seems almost dwarfed by her own energy and creativity.

And as a Greek, she is drawn to the sea, which was represented in this show by three small watercolours whose luminous quality evokes the rich underwater world of the Indian Ocean with its turtles, brightly hued fish and sparkling clarity.

Birds are a constant presence: the delicate long golden legs of white stroke, the peering eyes of an owl and the extravagant pink feathers of a flamingo preening itself and luxuriating in its own splendor. Elsewhere, the birds are so delicate; they are reminiscent of Chinese painting on silk. Certainly you can see a large number of influences at work. I look forward to next year’s show, and perhaps more in between.

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Credits:
Title: Theo Stone: Home at last
Publication: MSANII (The magazine for the arts from Rahimtulla Museum of Modern Art – RaMoMA) – Issue 22  – page 8-9
Date: January – March 2008
Writer: Betty Caplan | Location: Nairobi, Kenya

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SOCIETY Magazine: Unique Passion

Theodora’s unique passion

When many of us hear the word job, what comes to mind is a working environment that is rife with neat, formal offices, official dress codes, fancy computers and financial security. But for fine artist Theodora Stone work is something entirely different, writes Benson Kimathi

It is mid-morning in the outskirts of Nairobi National Park. About 100m from fine artist Theodora Stone’s house, two giraffes are feeding on the leaves of an acacia tree.

Not far away, several antelopes are wiggling their short tails as they forage for leaves. The few sounds one hears in this deserted grassland is the chirping of birds high up the trees, and the drone of planes that are descending to the nearby Wilson Airstrip. Also audible is the barking of two huge dogs that belong to one of two only neighbours.

From her first-floor art studio, Theodora peers through the grilled glass window. Spreading before her eyes is a vast carpet of wild pasture, acacia and shrubs. No one can quite tell what lies beneath the bushes. To a visitor, the view is spectacular. To Theo who has been peering through the window for many years now, the view is part of the landscape.

On the artist’s desk is a watercolour palette, several painting brushes, a pair of scissors and masking tape. Also on the desk are a painted ostrich eggshell and an art book. Theo, a Greek, has been in Kenya for more than 30 years.

“I came to Kenya in 1972,” she narrates. “My dad came here prospecting for gold.” Spending her childhood in Uganda, Theo would later shift to Kenya, which became home. “I have not been out of Africa since 1979.” The artist holds a British passport and, despite countless attempts to attain a Kenyan citizenship, she still must survive on a work permit.

Through the years, she has completed incalculable paintings for a diverse clientele.

“I did a bathroom painting for businessman Chris Kirubi,” she says. Dislaying the photos of her artwork. She has also done a big tile mural for Nairobi’s Fairview Hotel, which took her five months to complete.

What is the name of this arduous painting? “There is Mt Kilimanjaro in the background, with zebras running in the foreground.” On the floor of the same hotel’s swimming pool is a giant Fairview logo, also by Theo.

Owing to a back problem that now makes bending a painful endeavour, Theo has had to cut down on tile paintings. In their place, the Greek-Kenyan now does small-scale artwork for individuals, especially foreign tourists.

“I have done birds, Maasai paintings, and other African themes.” Also to Theo’s credit are paintings in various airports. The decorations in her own house are reminiscent of art – much of it being her work. Hanging on a wall is a beautiful banana plant painting. Theo’s entire tea set is adorned in abstract art, as is her toilet, whose seat is adorned in an aesthetic ceramic tile.

Her flower vases, lamp shades and tablemats are bedecked with striking artwork. Sprinkled around Theodora Stone’s living room are skulls, like that of a warthog, an impala’s and a baby zebra’s, all collected in the neighbouring grassland.

She is content with her modest and quiet lifestyle. “I could write a book on how to live on little money,” says Theo. Whenever a cheque comes in, she explains, “I have to stick to my budget until the next cheque arrives.”

This woman’s life away from civilization is a blend of art and simplicity. She has no electricity. For her TV and lighting, Theo uses solar energy. When there is no sun, she uses candles and kerosene lantern. To warm her water, Theodora uses what she terms “tunnel technology.” In this, a tank of water is heated outdoors on firewood, after which the water is routed through a snakework of pipes to the house.

To iron her clothes, “I use the old-fashioned method – charcoal.” She adds: “I feel sorry for the guys in town; they have such huge electricity bills.”

Theo’s simple life away from people and civilisation is sometimes wrought with security problems. “My two neighbours and I each have a radio,” she says. “When there is a problem, we call out ‘Mayday, Mayday’.” Hiding is a vast grassland after a raid can be a raw deal for thieves, so security is not a problem.

For one, chances of stumbling on stray lions, hyenas, or buffalos are real. Even those using a getaway vehicle are discouraged by the long course of dusty and bumpy road that one must navigate to get to freedom. “It is easier to be attacked in Nairobi,” says Theo.

To the 54-year-old, this life is ideal. “I live my dream, and I wouldn’t exchange this for anything,” she says.

“Sometimes it is hard, though. Being an artist makes you realize that money is not all that important.” She says that, in her profession, financial security is hard to come by. “When something comes up, you are happy. When there is nothing, you can only wait.”

To Theo, “life is an inner journey and money is only a means to facilitate the journey. Money is not supposed to be that important.”

She says that most people go through great hardships trying to earn a living – “until we realise our mistake. I have met people who do a nine-to-five job and who go home miserable. People don’t realise that they have the power to live the kind of life they want. People engage in much negative thinking, and live a life without passion. Such a life is not worth living.”

She has no family – not even with a man – except for the househelp. “I was married but decided being on my won is better,” she says. “I have no intention of living with a man. The men (I have met) appear to resent the fact that I am doing so much with my life. And all they do is bring me trouble.”

Visiting Theo frequently are animals from the neighbouring park, including spitting cobras and leopards. But she will not be running away any time soon. The fine artist loves her solitary life, and wants to be free to go wherever she wishes and to do as she pleases.

“I go to town as little as possible,” she says. “I just don’t like it; you get hassled.” As for what Theodora Stone wants to do with the rest of her life, painting beautiful things in a quiet, serene environment away from the headaches of civilisation is on top of the list.

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Credits:
Cover story: Finding Art In Nature
Publication: The Sunday Standard  – SOCIETY Magazine – page 6-7
Date: 18-Sep-2005 |  Issue #: 1327
Credits: Writer: Benson Kimathi | Pictures by: Jenipher Wachie
Location: Nairobi, Kenya

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SATURDAY Magazine: Master Crafters

Master Crafters

BENSON KIMATHI talks to two artists who made a living from painting, moulding and sculpting

What is the life of an artist like and should Kenyans expect to make a decent living from the profession?

While few Kenyans pursue art as a profession, those with hidden talents can certainly learn to harness them. With a little talent, lots of persistent hard work and some business know-how, Kenyan artists can learn the tools of the trade while mastering the techniques of successful Western artists. Theo Stone, a fine artist, and Kioko Mwitiki, a junk metal sculptor are a living testimony.

Theo Stone:
Ever wondered who paints on those colourful cups, dishes and plates you eat from? Have you ever stopped to admire a large, detailed piece of artwork by a hotel swimming pool, or on a piece of ceramic and wondered whether it was machine or hand-made?

In a quiet, almost lonely stretch of land in Ongata Rongai, about 20 kilometres from Nairobi, lives a gifted, petite woman who is almost bored by civilization. To generate ideas for her creative masterpieces, Theodora Stone must have total concentration. She has chosen to live away from the distractions or all modernity.

I stand outside the artist’s lone, rented house – one of a bout three houses in the vicinity. Her compound is beautifully dotted with flowers and bushes. Because the tow workers who help in the house are quiet, there isn’t a noise but for the whistling of bush insects and the rustling of leaves swaying in the wind. Her never-barking, tail-less dog runs around lethargically.

Bordering Theo’s house on one end is the sprawling Nairobi National Park a few kilometers away. On the other end is a stretch of green plains. The nearest sign of life is the Ongata Rongai market about four kilometres away. “I am a bush girl,” she says suddenly.

On her own, she has through the years produced
countless works and made a comfortable living from it

On her first-floor studio, Theo Stone sits on a swivel chair by a tiny desk that is littered with paints, water colours, pencils, art brushes and books on plants and trees.

In her living room is a collection of both her works and those by admired artists. On a rack are six licensed, hand-painted ostrich eggs. One egg bears the painting of the claws of an Egyptian Vulture, as if it were grabbing the egg, probably for its next meal. On another egg, Theo has painstakingly crafted a dung beetle edging its way through animal dung. After working on an egg for about a week, she sells each for about US $300.

The fine artist has adorned her ceramic lamp-stand with a green, leafy tendril, and her table-top with turtles. On her walls are paintings of birds whose names she explains with zeal. Theodora Stone makes her livelihood exclusively through her art. When she is not painting indoors, she is working in the field (at a hotel, home, school or park) on commissioned works. Depending on their size and detail, some works take her as long as four months to complete. Occasionally, she exhibits her works.

A Greek by descent, Theo was born in Uganda in 1951 to Theodore, a Greek miner. Brought up in Uganda, she attended primary and secondary schools in Eldoret, Kenya. After sitting her O ‘Levels, she proceeded to an art school in England for a course that should have taken four years. One year later however, she dropped out for lack of fees.

“What you see today is utterly self-taught,” she says. “I knew I had (the talent) in me…some people have it in them but they don’t pursue it.”

In the early ’70s at the start of Idi Amin’s terror in Uganda, Theo’s family migrated to Kenya. In the mid-eighties, she did not even have a home to live in. “Then a friend told me that a ceramics was looking for a fine artist.”

After about a year at the factory, however, she got bored of working on ceramics and decided to go solo. On her own, she has through the years produced countless works and made a living from it. Because she took time to perfect her craft, she is able to make paintings – small and large – to the extracting of clients.

She however says there are obstacles to joining the profession. “It takes an enormous investment.” Besides, she adds, “Kenyans do not think of art as a profession.” On one occasion, Theo was stunned to discover that someone at a hotel had obliterated her signature from two of her paintings.

Undeterred by the seemingly insurmountable stream of obstacles, Theo confidently says: “I wouldn’t leave this (profession) for anything.”

Kioko Mwitiki:
Who wants to live in a home that is infested with elephants, ostriches, a crocodile, cheetah, porcupine, ants and scorpions? Such is the life Kioko Wwitiki wallows in at his home-cum-studio in Westlands, Nairobi. The 39-year-old however has nothing to fear: each of the life-size animals is a work of his hands – all sculpted at his workshop, the Pimbi Studio.

When he landed his first job at a Nakuru-based welding workshop in 1986, Mwitiki had no idea this would be his door-way to boundless creativity. Born in Kajiado in 1962 of a Maasai father and Kamba mother, he joined Kenyatta University in 1983 for a Bachelor of Arts degree. “I wanted to become an arts teacher.”

Mwitiki was however expelled from the institution in 1985 after participating in a student riot. A year later, the university drop-out found himself serving an apprenticeship at the Nakuru Aluminium Works. “I was ashamed that I was being supervised by class-seven guys.” In-between routine work, he would gather junk pieces of metal and weld them together into abstract sculptures that were then more of a pastime than a means of livelihood.

One day, a passer-by picked out a piece of artwork from Mwitiki’s growing heap.

Mwitiki has done a nature trail of crocodiles and
vultures for Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park

“Are you selling this?” the man asked. “I almost said no,” recalls Mwitiki. The stranger bought several pieces for about Sh5000. Several other orders from the same buyer followed.

Soon thereafter, Mwitiki saw the works he had sold to the stranger displayed in a Nairobi shop. They were going for nearly 10 times his selling price. Mwitiki quietly told a buyer at the shop: “I made these and I can sell them to you more cheaply.” That is how he got into business.

In his early learning days, the sculptor who also paints had sold the painting of a flamingo to a buyer. A few days later, the angry buyer returned the painting, reminding Mwitiki that a flamingo’s beak must hook inwards, not outwards like a chicken’s. That taught the young artist to pay attention to detail.

Now an ardent observer and a seasoned artist, Mwitiki has lost count of the number of sculptures he has produced. His realistica-looking junk-metal elephants can be found at the entrance to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. He has sold numerous works to tourists and clients who order to specification.

Mwitiki has done a nature trail of crocodiles and vultures for Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park. Besides freely giving away some metal works to friends, he also rents them out for use in parties. A Nairobi hotel has ordered a metal menu in the shape of an African shield that Mwitiki is currently working on.

Always by his father’s side, the artist’s inquisitive five-year-old son, Mansa Koikai, stubbornly announces: “Dad, instead of being a lawyer, I will become an artist when I grow up.”

Mwitiki, a married father of three, distantly studies his nails. “It is very tough being an artist,” he quietly observes. “Maybe things will change in future.” Behind that facade of cynicism is a seasoned junk-metal artist whose skill and experience make him a true embodiment of creative workmanship.

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Credits:
Title: Master Crafters – talented artists and their masterpieces
Section: Main Feature | Publication: SATURDAY Magazine – page 12-13
Date: Saturday April 28 to May 4 2001
Writer: Benson Kimathi | Location: Nairobi, Kenya

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Previous Projects

If time permits, I’ll briefly highlight any new projects (commissions) that I’m undertaking on this page. Or, I might just add a few of my most memorable art projects from the past. Enjoy!

2009

  • Client: private | Type: tiled murals | Size: 0.84 sq metres | Location: Laikipia, Kenya | view work
    Description: created a design showcasing helmeted Guinean fowls in flight to be installed in the client’s kitchen

2008

  • Client: private | Type: tiled murals | Size: 10 sq metres | Location: Nairobi, Kenya | view work
    Description: created a design showcasing hippos wallowing in a swimming pool

2007

  • Client: private | Type: tiled murals | Size: 4.1 sq metres | Location: Malindi, Kenya | view work
    Description: created a design showcasing an abstract image of seahorses for a front gate

2005

  • Client: Fairview Hotel | Type: tiled murals | Size: 8 sq metres | Location: Nairobi, Kenya | view work
    Description: created a design for the swimming pool with the hotel’s logo while the dining room contained a mural with zebras.

2000

  • Client: International School of Kenya (ISK) | Type: tiled murals | Size: 127 sq metres | Location: Nairobi, Kenya | view work
    Description: created a design to be installed in the main foyer of the Art Centre showcasing the winning design that was submitted by an ISK student that year.

1997

  • Client: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) | Type: tiled murals | Size: 5 sq metres | Location: Nairobi, Kenya | view work
    Description: created a design showcasing chickens and plants in Terminal 3

1993

  • Client: Moi International Airport | Type: tiled murals | Size: 4.59 sq metres | Location: Mombasa, Kenya | view work
    Description: created a design showcasing both helmeted and vulturean Guinean fowls

1988

  • Client: private | Type: tiled murals | Size: 3 sq metres | Location: Nairobi, Kenya | view work
    Description: created a beautiful mural that was installed in the client’s jacuzzi and the exterior walls by the entrance

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I’m always thrilled to get feedback on my artwork from enthusiasts and customers alike. If you’d like to share a comment on anything, please leave it here. Be nice! 🙂
– Theo