Artist Spotlight: Yona Wanjala Mudibo
My name is Yona Wanjala Mudibo, I was born and bred in Mombasa, Tiwi currently living in Bamburi. Upcountry in Busia but I’ve been here all my life.
When did you first get into art?
I started getting into art when I was growing up. My dad used to sketch animal figures then I would try to copy them (He was my first inspiration, as he’s a pretty good artist himself) I soon started competing with my peers and that gave me more motivation to improve on my drawing. Eventually, in 2014 I started doing it professionally I painted various pieces then deliver them to galleries that paid on commission.
What does your work aim to say?
I consider myself an activist who uses art to express his message. And as an activist, I talk about various issues including, environmental protection & responsibility, good governance, integrity, justice, peace, and African heritage. These are things I believe will bring lots of empowerment and development to our society. Recently, I was involved in a project with other artists campaigning against plastic pollution in our oceans. Something that people take for granted, but if not talked about, could be the end of so much that is dear to us as humans.
Who are your biggest influences?
My art is influenced by various people around me and those that I listen to. Conversations I have with my family and friends, the music, and podcasts. By and large, our society influences me a lot.
What inspires you?
I am inspired by a dream. I dream of a future with a clean environment, a peaceful people, a just system, and a benevolent government. I hope my art will be part of the movement to that dream.
What’s your favourite artwork?
I have a couple of really great artworks in my portfolio, picking one is honestly a tough ask because I work in different media. But if I was to single out one, I would say the mural at MacKinnon market in Marikiti, Mombasa. That’s because I got to work on a monument that is older than Kenya itself (and in my hometown nonetheless).
There are also several string art pieces of Fela Kuti, Wangari Maathai, Nina Simone among others. Doing them was tasking but very fulfilling in the end.
HOW DO YOU WORK? WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST CREATIVE?
I have no specific time for working, I work whenever I feel inspired sometimes it can be late at night early morning waking hours but in the daytime, you can find me at studio Bela Beal in Bamburi a creative studio/space for various artists I feel most creative when listening to music, it just feels like it’s flowing.
What genre of music do you listen to when working?
I listen to a wide range of music. It depends on the mood I am in. Sometimes it’s Hip-hop from the likes of Hopsin, Kendrick Lamar, NF, J Cole, or Chris Muga, other times its jazz from Fela Kuti, Nina Simone, or reggae, indie rock. But most of the time, Fela Kuti puts me in the groove.
When do you know that you have finished a piece?
Honestly, it’s hard to tell when one is done with a piece of art. For me, I only stop when I feel that there is nothing more that needs to be added to get the audience to see what I want to say.
What is your most embarrassing moment in art?
Hah! I honestly haven’t had much of those, and I don’t know if this counts as one, but I went to a talent show event, and every competitor was doing every other talent apart from visual art. I had to wait in line wondering if I had read the poster right. When it was my turn to present my craft, I stood at the podium with over a hundred people looking on and started talking about my paintings. I was the only visual artist there. And there was no visual art category. The end of the story was good though. I got to sell one of my pieces.
What advice would you give to an artist just starting?
To be versatile.
Making it in life is hard. Making it as an artist is much harder because you are going against the system. So, to make it, an artist needs lots of patience, persistence, and a willingness to learn.
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