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Kenyan Artist Turns More Trash into Treasured Works of Art

Cyrus Kabiru is on a continuous journey with his art. Born in Nairobi the award-winning artist and sculptor best known for his “C-stunners” — eyewear created with junk — has turned his focus to discarded radios and a “Black Mamba” series of old bicycles, which were common in Kenya during his childhood. Repurposed and reimagined using colorful utensils, wood, wires, bottle caps and other rejected items, the artist says this makes him feel like he’s helping the environment through recycling, as “a warrior of nature.” For Kabiru, the collections are also personal. His 2020 radio series comes with a nostalgic connection: His grandfather was the first person in his village to have a radio, and so “everyone used to come and listen.” That radio, he says, was passed down to his father, and then to Kabiru and his brothers. Giving new life to old things is at the heart of his work, Kabiru says. In February 2020, he opened a visual arts space near Thika, a town northeast of Nairobi, for fellow artists to exhibit work, create and be mentored and inspired. Kabiru plans to continue “giving trash a second chance.” Now, he says, he’s “stitching some new artwork with sticks,” because as new art and artists come onto the scene, he has to “work hard, work smart,” and think outside the box.