In the Studio with Frank Okoth and Douglas Maina
Frank Okoth and Douglas Maina, two young artists with the Uweza Art Gallery in Kibera, Nairobi, share their thoughts on painting, poverty and their aims for the future.
When and how did you become an artist?
Maina: Since I was young I've always had a passion for art. I have been drawing since then, until I was introduced to the use of paints and realised how enjoyable and helpful it was. I then ventured fully into being an artist.
Frank: I started drawing when I was very young. Back then, I was using pencil to come up with cartoon sketches. This made me happy, although my parents were unhappy because I ended up drawing on my school books!
How would you sum up your style of art? What type of subjects do you paint?
Maina: My style of art mainly entails fine details. The subjects that I mostly prefer to paint are nature, including wildlife and African landscapes and even life in the slums.
Frank: When I was introduced to acrylic and canvas, my skills and style started improving slowly by slowly. As I developed as an artist, I explored different genres such as landscapes, mixed media and portraits. It helped me to understand my different skills and styles. Now I am focusing on portraits and that's were my strengths lie.
Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Maina: My inspiration mostly comes from real life situations,. What I see with my visual senses I put on the canvas.
Frank: I read books by different artists, attend exhibitions and meet fellow artists. I watch inspirational documentaries on TV about art and do research online to learn more about art and other artists around the world.
What do you use the sale proceeds of your art for?
Maina: Art sales have really helped me a lot! When I make sales, my first priority is to make sure that I've managed to clear my school fees and other debts related to my academics. The remaining amount, I give some to my parents to support my younger siblings and the rest I use for my upkeep and some goes for my savings.
Frank: I give my parents a small percentage for their shopping, I help my small sister to pay her school fees, and I also use it for paying rent and buying food.
What are your aims for the future?
Maina: I will forever be an artist and I want to also give back to the community through my talent in some way. Through my academic skills and qualifications, I want to be among the leading computer programmers and to be able to solve problems and come up with possible solutions to help our society.
Frank: My aim as an artist is to help people in our communities to appreciate art and to know the importance of it because I believe art can transform many lives in our Kibera slum.
For further examples of Frank and Douglas’ work, please see our “Current Exhibition” page and for further details about the Uweza Foundation, which funds and operates the Uweza Art Gallery in Kibera slum, please see www.uwezakenya.org