SAFEGUARDING THE LEGITIMACY AND LIFE OF TRADITIONS THROUGH ART
Martin Liam Njiru is an award winning visual artist born in Laikipia county, Nanyuki. He has been practising art officially for 2 years. Unofficially from the age of 11. His earliest memory of him drawing was Shakes Makena a character from Supa Strikers comic books. He attended The University of Nairobi where he studied Art and Design for 3 years then followed a 2 year apprenticeship to be a tattoo artist under the mentorship of (who he swears is one of Kenya’s best tattoo artists) Franky Barrin, of Immortal Tattoos Kenya. This was where Martin honed his pencil skills and his black and grey technique that he later translated to charcoal art. After the completion of his apprenticeship he went off on his own.
Martin draws his inspiration from everyday life experiences. A real life scenario that inspired him is that of a story his mom used to tell him about her life when he was young that later inspired him to make a piece of art years later. He appreciates his art and mentions that it is pretty different and that he likes different.
The themes prevalent in his art are;
Identity because, “Having a strong/ good sense of identity brings comfort in ones skin and situation and brings a sense of security.” He believes that art needs to speak to the the good/ beautiful quality of society, allow the viewer to see themselves in a positive light regardless of the subject matter. Martin loves invoking feelings of self worth, belonging, beauty, strength and africanness through his art.
Adversity; because, life filled with adversity is a life full of stories and art is a reflection of those stories. “We should not forget where we have been because those experiences inform where we are going next. Art should be a snapshot of life as it is or as it was.”
Religion and myths. Martin expresses curiosity to know who are our modern day saints? Religion (Christianity) has been a very big part of his early life and now as a “grown up” he has turned away from it, however, he still has a lot of questions concerning this topic. In his quest to answer these questions he has fallen in love with stories from other religions both extinct and present.
“I love greek and norse mythology. Their stories are the coolest!” Martin says.
Fantasy. Dark fantasy is where he classifies his art. He uses portraits of actual people in his life to express his deepest fears and desires. Martin also likes to think that he is bringing them face to face with the anti-heros or monsters he sees and might be laying with.
A major obstacle he encountered in his life was losing his mom at the age of 9 and losing his baby sister at the age of 18, he says that these two events have shaped him in major ways as a person and as an artist. His ultimate goal is to have an art exhibition on mars. Alternatively have my art move someone to change their own life for the better. The challenge Martin faces is that of monetizing his art. He has tons of work in the house that’s not selling. That and having ideas in his head and not being able to bring them into existence. However, he believes that Patience Pays.
Martin states that the role of craftsmen in society is to keep our traditions alive and authentic since the society is dynamic following everyday technological advancements and mixing of various cultures.
Here is a link to his work: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1obQeqG0V0wKAJTu850PsJrodgKdHk8zU