The freedom to change society

When I have ideas, I just create art and all is well, says Chris Waweru, 21

In Summary

• When his classmates chose to become engineers, doctors, pilots and teachers, he chose art

Work by Charles Mutune Waweru, charcoal, pastels and cassette strings on paper, 2014-19
Work by Charles Mutune Waweru, charcoal, pastels and cassette strings on paper, 2014-19
Image: CHARLES WAWERU

Charles Mutune Waweru, 21, is an artist winner the MASK Prize 2019. "Art was my best friend, I always dreamt of becoming a great artist," he says. 

Mutune started drawing when he was 12 in his primary school using pencils he drew maps with.

Bored during lessons which were “all theory and no practice”, he sketched in his notebooks.

The drawings became so popular among his classmates that they rushed to see them as soon a lesson over and a teacher left the room.

Sometimes he would skip the lessons altogether “to hide in the bushes and draw”. “And so, when my classmates chose to become engineers, doctors, pilots and teachers, I chose art as my career.”

At the age of 14, he joined a secondary school that offered the Art and Design subject. “It was like a dream come true.” He signed up and frequently visited the Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts to talk to its students.“Finishing my secondary school I was eager to pursue my passion for art, but the outside world confused me. I applied to a few technical colleges to study electrical engineering. Luckily, my brother and cousin saw the potential in me and convinced me to pursue art."

Waweru joined the Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts in 2014 and went to exhibitions and artists’ studios.

He undertook an internship at Dust Depo where he met leading Kenyan artists such as Patrick Mukabi (Panye), Erick Mureithi (Sticky) and Gwanzu.

Two years ago, Charles finished Buruburu and together with other artists opened the Fanisi Arts Studios in Dandora, Nairobi.

The aim of the collective, he says, was and still is “to change the society. The rise of unemployment among youths makes them engage in criminal activities, but through art the society can be transformed.”

Waweru’s inspiration comes from his compelling desire to speak to people, to relay to them his experiences and vision. “My art gives me freedom to express my feelings without limit. I want my imagination and perspectives to help my audiences. The intent is to convey the truth. When I have ideas, I just create art and all is well.” 

Incorporating both realism and abstract forms, Waweru’s imagery is rooted in stylising human figures set in motion: “I visualise the diverse human characters and life patterns.” His art medium is charcoal, pastels and cassette strings on paper. The works featured here draw on the history of Fort Jesus, helplessness and powerlessness of youth, and one's need to face one’s problems. 

Since graduating in 2017, Mutune has won MASK Prize 2019, took part in Safaricom Calendar and exhibited at Sarit Centre, National Museum of Kenya, Karen Blixen Museum, Karen Country Club, Michael Joseph Centre, Alliance Francaise and other venues in Kenya and Norway.

Mutune Waweru is an emerging star of the contemporary art scene in Africa. Buy or commission his work for your art collection. His prices range between 1,000 and 60,000 Kenyan Shilling. You can arrange a visit to his studio directly with him via email: [email protected] 

Alla Tkachuk, the Founder of the renowned pan-African creativity completion MASK Prize, [email protected]

CHARLES WAWERU
CHARLES WAWERU
Image: MASK PRIZE