Looking forward to travel with / pick or drop a loved one at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, and as you approach the airport, notice a herd of elephants that seem life-like at the roundabout – and a series of more animals including the rest of the big five as well as the wildebeests along the stretch, leading to different terminals?
The witnessed scenery is eye-catching, magnificent and adds vibrancy that gives off our wildlife heritage – that we Kenyans pride in. The brilliance behind it all is the renowned Kenyan pioneer of scrap or junk art, Kioko Mwitiki.
One of the greatest figures in the history of Western art, Vincent Van Gogh once said “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced”. This could not be more true. Kioko Mwitiki’s journey to becoming one of the top artists locally and traversing internationally, began from turning waste produce in the form of scrap metal into captivating pieces. Despite the odds of venturing into using a raw and unknown form of medium, and convincing the public of the value in the finished product, Mwitiki sought to find his personal identity as an artist and showcase it through his art.
The key to being a successful artist and finding your identity is through collaborating with all sorts of people to get a unique edge and perspective into your output. Having people around you who bring something to the table and with whom you can share ideas and converse on certain issues facing the art industry will put you leagues ahead as an artist.
In his interview with a local broadcast station, Citizen Tv – he mentioned the purpose behind his art is to be one that is driven by redefining the concept of how our wildlife and cultural heritage is perceived. This is by shifting it from ‘the need to be a tourist to explore the country’s heritage’ to its accessibility to the public through his form of art i.e. public art in collaboration with some corporations both locally and globally such as the National Museum, Kenya Wildlife Service, Seregenti National Park, San Diego zoo and of course the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
Mwitiki’s philosophy revolves around campaigning for the conservation of the environment through his art and the use of cheap scrap metal as a way of recycling materials. That said, Kioko Mwitiki has officially joined the Baniku’s list of top most influential figures in the country’s art industry.