Kenyan teen’s extraordinary artistry garners international praise

Wangari Njoroge

Art as a career is slowly seeing the light of day as many creatives are being given the spaces they have long deserved while getting recognition for their work.

Hailing from Mombasa County in Kenya’s Coastal region, Zubeda Shabaan Maloba an exceptional artist has continued to gain both local and international acknowledgement for her extra ordinary pieces of art.

Her journey in artistry began at only the age of six years when she started sketching art on the walls and papers in her family home in Mombasa.

In her 10 years as an artist, Shabaan discloses in an exclusive interview that she is using her art of beautiful landscapes and animal portraits to showcase the country’s heritage and culture.

“I find joy in exploring varios forms of art and drawing. This passion stared in my early years and through my family’s support I have truly dug into it,” she said in the interview.

Shabaan’s mother said that she noticed her daughter’s talent as soon as she started drawing and she has been supporting her art through enrolling her to classes, taking her to events within and out of the country as well as showcasing her work.

“Shabaan was born with the gift of drawing and expressing herself through the walls ad paper. Her friends saw the potential of her becoming a remarkable artist, and that’s when I recognized her extra-ordinary gift,” said Swalha Omar, Shabaan’s mother.

Extra-ordinary talent

While she had been in the art business for many years, the first-time closure of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 became a turning point for Shabaan.

She spent more time refining her art and learning more and better techniques; this passion blossomed into a budding art business.

With unwavering dedication, she embraced art and showcased her creations on social media.

“Amidst the pandemic, with no school or madrasa, I immersed myself in drawing on paper, enhancing my skills through social media and posted my art on Instagram. This journey birthed my own drawing book then I later invested in quality materials like canvas, fueling my artistic growth,” Shabaan shared.

Over the years, her beautiful portraits showcasing Kenya’s beauty have continued to be recognized in exhibitions with the young artist getting mentors to help her navigate through the artistic journey.

At 16 years of age, Shabaan is currently getting top-notch guidance at the Africa Nomad Art Center, thanks to Benjamin Livoi a mentor in the organization.

Mr. Livoi describes her talent as unique especially considering her age.

“Shabaan’s artistic prowess is exceptional, especially considering her age. Comparing her drawings to those of her peers, she stands ahead. At our art center, we aim to refine her talent and guide her towards international recognition. Plans are underway to involve her in our projects during her school breaks and engage her in more projects,” said the mentor.

Beyond drawing

Beyond her major passion of drawing, she discovered a love for beadwork, crafting exquisite bracelets that not only adorn wrists but bring some economic support for her small family.

Apart from her art, Shabaan also disclosed that she wanted educational excellence so that she can pursue a career in architecture.

“After completing my education, I aspire to become an architect, staying true to the essence of art,” Shabaan added.

She hopes to engage in more art galleries and exhibitions with legendary artists so as to keep alive her burning passion for showcasing her country.

Shabaan also calls upon the young people who have talent to utilize their art in creating awareness on different issues in the country and publicizing Kenya’s diversity to the rest of the world.

“Nobody should ignore their God-given talents rather, use them for different goods in our communities, to develop themselves and for the general good of our country,” she concluded.

State of art in Kenya

Kenya is a youthful country with almost three quarters of the population under the age of 30.

For creative and artistic youth, the unemployed youth are using this venture to feed themselves as well as to induce positive mental states.

“Creating art reduces pressure, strain, anxiety, constant worry and nervous tension and through art such as drawing, positive mental energy can be induced because it engages the mind in fresh ways and taps into positive sentiments,” Said Mr. Livoi, an artist at the Africa Nomad Art Center.

He urged learners to use the many available online applications as guides for beginners and called on the parents to encourage their children to tap into their creative abilities.

“Nothing excites children like when they create their own artwork. We should be at the forefront in helping them nurture their talents,” he added.

This has come at a time when the national government has incorporated performing arts in the new education model, the Competency Based Curriculum (CBC), intended to help the learners unearth their full potential.

Art has become an investment place where the ultra- rich are packing their money in the luxury investment index.

According to the Knight Frank Wealth Report, more sophisticated investors are opting for investment plans that are sustainable by including green priorities in their investment portfolios.

Graffitti art is also common in the country’s capital Nairobi where these monumental murals are on walls, offices, blocks and hotels and inside people’s private homes.

While traditional art forms are deeply rooted in the country’s indigenous culture, a new generation of artists are pushing boundaries and reshaping perceptions.

Contemporary art galleries and exhibitions provide platforms for both established and emerging talents to showcase their work, tackling diverse themes ranging from social justice to environmental sustainability.

Notably, Kenya’s art community is increasingly embracing digital mediums, leveraging technology to amplify their voices and reach wider audiences both locally and internationally.

Africa Change Stories platform is established to tell African stories which are empowering and are at variant to stereotypical views of wars, famine, diseases. At African Change Stories, we believe narrative and angle matters. So we responsibly tell stories ethically. The platform therefore pushes forward great and energizing stories which will propel its people to consciously strive to do more. You have a story? Info@africanchangestories.org

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