Spectacular Africa: Artistic Bifocals of Cyrus Kabiru
Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru, represented by Ed Cross Fine Art, creates C-Stunner spectacles that serve as powerful metaphors for how Africa is seen by the outside world, and vice versa.
Ed Cross Fine Art is proud to represent Cyrus Kabiru, one of the most exciting young artists to have emerged from Kenya over the last few years. Kabiru recently completed his first international exhibition at Kuntspodium T Gallery in Holland, an installation of over 50 of his extraordinary ‘C Stunner’ glasses made from found and recycled materials. The works are rich in social comment - from glasses with bars that evoke the jails of Nairobi to those with spent bullets that tell a story of criminal or police brutality. A love for nature fuels the artist’s desire to recycle as part of a process of protecting the environment.
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. His is a universal story of poverty and the struggle – and creativity – to overcome it.
Kabiru says, ‘The original idea was inspired by memories of my father's childhood where he dropped his glasses by accident and a lorry ran over them, shattering them completely. It goes without saying that he received a very thorough beating from my grandfather. From that day on my father hated glasses.
I admired sun-glasses though, but wearing them was an impossibility because of my father's attitude towards them and I thus decided that when I grew up I would pick up from where the lorry left off.Now I have my own eyewear line which I call The C-Stunners. I have realised the dream and, as my grandfather once said, ‘When you truly dream a dream of your lifetime, never go back to sleep’ and I, well, I am neither relenting nor dozing back to sleep.’
Kabiru has, in essence, created a contemporary folk tale whereby his 'glasses' have enabled him to leave behind the life of poverty that his father and grandfather wished to overcome.
According to African contemporary art specialist Ed Cross: ‘Cyrus creates and wears artistic bifocals. The work sits between fashion, wearable art, performance, and of a kind commodities/objects. C-Stunners have a certain energy and playfulness that really captures the sensibilities and attitudes of a new generation in Nairobi. They portray the aspiration of popular culture - bling; they reflect the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the people; the lenses provide a new filter giving a fresh perspective onto the world that we live in transforming the wearer not only in appearance but in mind frame as well.’
Kabiru has attracted considerable media attention. MTV made a film about his work and there is growing interest in him as an artist from various quarters. Exhibitions in the US and London are being planned.
Photos courtesy of Ed Cross Fine Arts.