Caribbean Sun (from C-Stunners), 2012
Chromogenic print, 150 x 100 cm
© Carl de Sauza/AFP/Getty Images
“The place where I grew up faced the Nairobi dump site. All the trash, all the waste of Nairobi, used to be dumped in my neighborhood. So whenever I woke up, the first thing I saw was garbage. I used to tell my dad I would like to give trash a second chance. I would like to work with trash. And that’s why, up to now, that’s what I’ve done.” —Cyrus Kabiru(1)
Cyrus Kabiru (b. 1985, Nairobi, Kenya) is an emerging, self-taught painter and sculptor who lives and practices in Nairobi, Kenya. His artworks often portray his country in a humorous manner. Kabiru adopts the role of an observer, an explorer using his paintings and sculptures as the output for his experiences.(2) He is best known for his pieces made from recycled material and found objects. Collecting Nairobi cast offs found in his surroundings—discarded objects such as screws, wire, spoons, and crown corks—Kabiru assembles them anew. Giving these objects a second chance, Kabiru harnesses the transformative power of renovation and reuse, advocating trash as a material that can form the basis for creative work.(3)
Kabiru creates what he calls C-Stunners, a series of wearable eyewear sculptures that defies boundaries between art, performance, fashion, and design. Each C-Stunner tells a singular story and shares a message and a meaning. He transforms recycled materials into steampunk, one-of-a-kind artistic bifocals that transcend traditional forms and challenge stereotypes.(4)
Kabiru has been creating his spectacles since childhood: first as toys for himself and later for his classmates as a way of trading his way through schoolwork. His passion for glasses comes from his father’s aversion. As a child, his father was severely punished for breaking a pair of glasses that his parents bought with a lot of effort and sacrifices. When Kabiru was about seven years old and playing with his father’s glasses, his dad said, “Cyrus, if you want to wear the glasses, maybe make your own glasses.”(5) Since that moment, the young boy embarked on what would become his lifetime passion and mission: to create eyewear out of found material. His father, bemused by the creation of toy glasses, became an unwitting curator, decreeing that his son should only make glasses when there is a reason or a story behind them.(6) By recreating again and again the object of his father’s pain, and his grandparents’ hope, Kabiru began to create a body of work that would have symbolic significance well beyond his own family story, ultimately becoming a metaphor for the power of creative transformation both within Africa and worldwide.(7)
Show: Caribbean Sun (2012)
Look closely at Kabiru’s glasses. Why do you think Kabiru chose the title Caribbean Sun? What title would you give this artwork? Why?
How do you think it would feel to wear these glasses? Where would you go with them? Why?
Describe the materials that you think Kabiru is using. If you were searching for similar materials, where would you look?
Do you think Kabiru has created Caribbean Sun mainly to be worn or to be displayed as art? Explain your answer.
Each C-Stunner tells its own story and shares a message and a meaning. What message or meaning do you think Caribbean Sun is telling? Write a paragraph to share your ideas.
Kabiru said, “C-Stunners have a certain energy and playfulness that really captures the sensibility and attitude of a youth generation in Nairobi. They portray the aspiration of popular culture bling; they reflect the ingenuity and resourcefulness of people; the lenses provide a new filter giving a fresh perspective onto the world that we live in, transforming the wearer not only in appearance but in mind frame as well.”(8) What do you think about his statement? What object from your culture would you select as having similar attributes? Explain.