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From the 'C-Stunner' to the 'Black Mamba,' Kenya's Cyrus Kabiru rides wave of success with new creations made from scrap

From the 'C-Stunner' to the 'Black Mamba,' Kenya's Cyrus Kabiru rides wave of success with new creations made from scrap

Published 28th July 2021
Kenyan sculptor and artist Cyrus Kabiru has made a name for himself by transforming junk into art. He repurposes the scraps as sculptures, adding unusual materials to the discarded bikes he's found in junkyards. To this piece, he's added wood, plastics and scrap metal. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
Kabiru creates his art from old "Black Mamba" bicycles, which he says were a big part of his childhood in Nairobi. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
Black Mambas used to be common in Kenya, but have more recently given way to motorbikes and other forms of transportation. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
Making art out of old Black Mambas -- like this one, adorned with old tin cups and wooden spoons -- is Kabiru's way of remembering their significance. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
This Black Mamba's handlebars were repurposed to look like the horns of a wildebeest, which is the name of the piece. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
From discarded pipes, wires and cutlery to items he finds in nature, Kabiru says he is inspired to create everywhere he goes. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
Kabiru also draws on nostalgia with his collection of radios. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
Due to the pandemic, Kabiru's 2020 collection showed as part of a virtual exhibition of the SMAC Gallery, South Africa, and can currently be seen at Art Orodha in Kenya. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
Kabiru says the reimagined radios are both helping the environment by upycling them, and showing that just because new things exist it doesn't mean the old should be discarded. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
He plans to continue "giving trash a second chance," which he says can raise awareness for the environment -- and makes him feel like "a warrior of nature." Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
For this piece, titled "Checked," Kabiru used old product packaging, plastic and metal to make it look like a checkerboard. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
Old car plugs, a ruler and pencil make for a colorful reimagining of a '90s-style tape player. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
Despite his other series, Kabiru remains best known for his "C-Stunners" collection -- eyewear handmade from trash and crafted to look like glasses. Credit: Courtesy Cyrus Kabiru
Written by Lamide Akintobi, CNN
Cyrus Kabiru is on a continuous journey with his art. Born in Nairobi, Kenya, 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.
Kenyan artist Cyrus Kabiru is turning trash into treasured works of art. Credit: CNN
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.
Scroll through the gallery at the top of this page for some of Kabiru's latest creations.
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