ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: CYRUS KABIRU
The Silo Hotel's Art Concierge Irene Boaventura discusses the work of Cyrus Kabiru.
While many are stuck at home we wanted to share the stories of a few of the incredible young African artists showcased at The Silo Hotel. As many independent artists and other creatives suffer the economic effects of Covid-19 we thought it would be a good opportunity to show some appreciation for their work and all that they bring to our guest experience. As Liz Biden is quick to explain, “art brings a space to life”.
The Silo Hotel has over 300 pieces of contemporary African art. The Biden family have carefully curated the collection in collaboration with a number of local art galleries. The intention is that it should be in-keeping with that of Zeitz MOCAA below.
Because all of the art is contemporary, many of the artists are young and looking to make a name for themselves both locally and internationally. The Silo Hotel provides a wonderful showcase for this young talent and an opportunity for our guests to get to know some of the amazing creativity found in Africa. Our duty manager and art concierge, Irene Boaventura, loves nothing more than to take guests on tailored art tours. While Irene isn’t able to do that right now, she wanted to share a few insights into the work of Cyrus Kabiru.
Born in Nairobi in 1984, Cyrus continues to live and work in Kenya. This young artist has actively been pushing the boundaries of conventional craftsmanship, sculpture, fashion, design, art and photography since 2011. Cyrus grew up in Kenya and always admired his father’s glasses. His father said that if he wanted a pair he should make them himself. By using castaway objects and materials, and repurposing them into beautiful spectacles and masks, this is exactly what he did. Cyrus’s materials are usually sourced locally in his hometown of Nairobi but occasionally he collects discarded material on a global scale. Airport staff are always intrigued by the contents of his luggage.
Kabiru worked closely with the SMAC gallery to create a medium for his artwork. This collaboration subsequently became his C-Stunner series (the C is for Cyrus); evidencing handmade eyewear and self-portrait photographs. In this way he is able to produce photography rather than just sculpture. The meticulous assemblages are fashioned from urban debris and discarded or obsolete technology that Cyrus carefully selects and imaginatively recontextualises. It is always the artist himself, wearing his creations, as if continuing his observation of everyday life from an extraordinary position. In these photographic self-portraits, Cyrus’s own face and body animates and authenticates the work.
His use of glasses addresses the notion of “what we are looking at”, allowing the viewer to become aware of the assumptions of the things we view, and how we view the world through our own eyes. Each title in the series includes “Macho Nne…”, the Swahili term for the expression ‘four eyes’ an often derogatory name for someone who wears glasses. The wearer of these C-stunners is both a bespectacled visionary and ‘blinkered’ by the charms of consumer culture. Included with each series of three is the actual mask that Kabiru created. You’ll find two such masks in the lobby of The Silo Hotel – these provide an interesting sense of scale.
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