Kivuthi Mbuno (born in 1947) is a renowned Kenyan surrealist artist. Surrealists – create illogical scenes that they display with precision – try to eliminate the opposition between dream and reality and give the unconscious a voice.
In his early days, Kivuthi Mbuno already worked as a guide on safaris. He often traveled during that period, mainly in the interior of Kenya and Tanzania. This is how he got to know nature and animals in the wild and brought about a close bond and deep connection with his natural environment.
He worked for, among others, the American photographer Peter Beard and was clearly influenced by the drawings of the old cook of Blixen, Kamante Gatura.In his early days, Kivuthi Mbuno already worked as a guide on safaris. He often traveled during that period, mainly in the interior of Kenya and Tanzania. This is how he got to know nature and animals in the wild and brought about a close bond and deep connection with his natural environment. He worked for, among others, the American photographer Peter Beard and was clearly influenced by the drawings of the old cook of Blixen, Kamante Gatura.
Around 1976, thanks to his connections with the family of baroness Karen Blixen, he settled permanently in Langata, where he exclusively devoted himself to drawing. The long journeys inland and the traditional life of the Wakamba tribe, of which he comes, have inspired him and are almost tangibly present in his drawings.
Mbuno gives himself to nature and shows us the extraordinary in what is an ordinary place. With precision in his drawing style using ink, crayons and pastels – he combines animals, people, objects of traditional life and large spaces. His surrealistic pencil drawings show the national tribal world of his youth.
His drawing shows no hostile aspects that are usually attributed to the vast areas of Africa. In contrast, Kivuthi takes his viewer to a peaceful and bright, almost luminous world in which one performs any activity. For Kivuthi the brilliance of his world is perceptible in places where we do not notice it so easily. He seems to play incessantly with the morphological characteristics of the animals (the neck of the giraffes, the powerful slaughter of the elephants …) in their natural environment in appreciation of their respective territory and in perfect harmony with the other animals. Only man can appear as the disturbing element. But even there Kivuthi provides them with both grotesque and at the same time elegant characteristics: They move with the same ease as the animals on which they hunt. Through faces the spiritual characteristics of smart, pleasure-seeking, enjoying people seem.
It is simply a dream, as he says, “a radiant and peaceful world that has not yet been touched by modern life where nature retains its role as the mother, goddess and queen of the earth and her people”.
The philosopher thinks of the relationship between man and animal in the great whole of things.
His impeccable way of dealing with the materials (fine brushes, colored pencil and inks on paper or canvas) is refined and inventive. His grim colors and poetic stylists represent a surprising world with a meticulous clarity. By creating a compelling truth, the artist calls for empathy and frees the imagination.
The model in the artist’s mind is closer to the supernatural than to the natural.
It would not be right to label his work as primitive naivite. The artist himself explains that what he paints is not the reality as such but rather the idea that he has of nature in a kind of Eden-like era. For Kivuthi Mbuno, beauty stems from the harmonious relationship that man has with his natural environment and he suggests that we might call this way of being in the world “being inside beauty”. The work of Mbuno is very personal, he creates his own microcosm inspired by the mythology of his Kamba tribe.
His style of drawing, the use of vivid colors, his bizarre, downright grotesque and almost surreal interpretation of nature, man and animal, his meticulous graphic style make his work unique.
In 2013, Kivithi Mbuno was selected to represent Kenya at the 55th edition of the prestigious Venice Biennale.
Often the work of Kivuthi Mbuno is compared with the work of Joel Oswaggo. Both artists use the same medium and both are deeply rooted in their tradition and interpret their culture through their artworks.
His work is collected by important museums such as the Völkerkunde Museum in Frankfurt, Germany, the Museum of African Art in New York, the Dallas Museum of Art, the National Museum of Art in Washington DC, the Saatchi Gallery and the Tate Modern in London.
seize: 80 x 54
seize: 80 x 54
seize: 80 x 54