C-Stunners (2013) by Cyrus KabiruOriginal Source: African Artists Foundation
The Irish poet, W.B. Yeats, once wrote that all art originates in “the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.” Perhaps no contemporary artist exemplifies this as neatly as self-taught sculptor, Cyrus Kabiru, whose visionary practice reclaims trash discarded electronics to create vibrant, future-oriented artworks.
His reclamation of discarded materials has a vibe of tenderness, even with its jagged, steam-punk aesthetic. Reusing waste also has an obvious crossover with the fight against climate change. Here, you can spend a moment with Cyrus’ C-Stunners, and read his own words about contemporary Kenyan art and climate change.
Macho Nne The Honey Comb (2019) by Cyrus Kabiru
Cyrus, your C-Stunners are made using repurposed trash and discarded materials. Could you describe the materials you use and your process in collecting and repurposing them?
Yes, most of my artwork is made of things I collect from the street. Mostly I work with metal, plastic, wires, car parts, bicycle parts etc. After collecting, I form my ideas and implement them through an artwork.
Macho Nne Malkia Mzungu (White Queen) (2019) by Cyrus Kabiru
We understand you are a self-taught artist. What made you turn to ‘making things’, and particularly why did you want to make things out of waste material?
The biggest dump site in Kenya was in my neighbourhood. I used to feel uncomfortable with this issue of trash, and I used to say that one day I would give trash a second chance. My dad also played a big role, especially in the choice to create eyewear. He never liked glasses after he broke his pair when he was young.
Macho Nne Made In China (2019) by Cyrus Kabiru
Do you see your work as a response to mankind’s relationship with the natural world?
Yes. I very much relate to the natural world. It gives me ideas and is the reason I want to give a second chance to this trash.
Macho Nne Dutch Mask (2019) by Cyrus Kabiru
How do you think climate change is affecting Kenya’s cultural heritage and traditions?
Climate change is affecting everyone, especially in Kenyan society. We have some communities in Kenya known for their art, especially carving. But now they are no longer doing it as they no longer have the resources. Trees and plants have been destroyed and cut down.
A few years ago, I was doing a project with a certain community showing them an alternative of doing art without messing with nature. Unfortunately, I had to stop as I didn't have enough money to continue with the project. But culture is what I do everyday. Myself, I try my best to save nature through my art and my everyday living.
Macho Nne Millipede (2019) by Cyrus Kabiru
How do you imagine Kenya’s arts and culture scene might develop in the future, and how might this be brought about?
Kenyan art will develop if we have enough art schools, museums, and government support, especially in international cultural exchange.
How do you think artists or arts institutions can help to make a real impact in times of crisis, such as our current climate crisis?
Institutions can help by bringing creatives together to share ideas on how to deal with climate change. I’ve started a project called Kabiru Creatives which supports upcoming artist to do art related to saving nature, particularly by working with found objects.
Macho Nne Trump Wardrobe, 2019 by Cyrus Kabiru
Do you want to help people see things more clearly?
I want them to see the world more clearly in different ways. Maybe by wearing my glasses.
If you could look through a pair of glasses and see Kenya’s cultural future, what might it ideally look like?
We are heading somewhere. A few years ago we were nowhere. I think we are heading in a good direction.
Learn about the communities of Kenya