Interview: Creative Scene in Africa

I shoot things I like, things that intrigue me...I don't find myself having the urge to point my camera at say, starving refugees, sickly slum know the stuff that gets headlines.

KAJIADO, Kenya, March 18, 2020/-- Rarely do you come across a polymath and getting to talk with Maina Maseeti was a privilege. A master of his craft and highly knowledgeable of Africans, their way of living and the continent at large. A builder by heart, thinker and doer. In the tenth edition of Kikao we touch on photography, collaborations, African spirituality and marriage.

Let Kikao begin...

[Question 1] Welcome to Kikao. Who is Maina Maseeti?

I'm a self taught artist, who like many of us interested in a wide array of disciplines within the creative field. Photography and craftsmanship I particularly like. I'm always learning new skills by experimenting and observing other artists and artisan. I think my mind thrives on multiple tasks...I'm currently teaching myself wood work, metal work, jewelry and the guitar!!

This is in addition to learning the ropes of art management, resource mobilization, people skills, logistics and administration skills as one of the founder members and officials within KNVAA and part of the Mwamko exhibition team.

I can tell you I have never been bored in my live!

[Question 2] Never box an artist in a square. Is there a template for creative work?


{This question will be expounded on in due time.}

[Question 3] What is a “quintessential” African work of art?

Art done by people living on the continent. Art that is functional. Art that serves a purpose other than just looking good or provoking reactions in the viewer.

Art that is in harmony with nature and day to day life.

The things we create as people of this continent, songs, stories, sculpture, paintings, building's, garments, body adornments nini na nini... generally run along this lines.

To me that is broadly speaking what distinguishes our creations from western ones. And the fact that traditionally art was fully interwoven in the fabric of day to day life which also was inseparable from spiritual life.

Social systems across this continent were already well advanced, our ancestors had worked out how to harmonise our beautiful blessed physical world and the invisible world of angels, demons and the Creator. Perhaps they weren't even as invisible as they are to is toward.

[Question 4] You are part of the artist that run the Mwamko Exhibition. What was your experience?

It has been a baptism of fire in many ways.

As an association we have undergone all the challenges, up and downs one can imagine in our 3 years of existence. Getting now 60 plus artists and their works together and taking of was and still is a nightmare at times!

Mwamko exhibition is our first major venture and it has developed in the direction not many in the visual arts sector would have expected.

We literally started with nothing but an empty room and 200 plus artwork's!! Its exciting to me as I get to to put my hand on different tasks day to day.

At Mwamko gallery now running till July I also enjoy meeting new people daily, visitors, artists, potential partners...I learn a lot!

Joining KNVAA I hoped to change things in the visual arts world and certainly the exhibition, true to its name, has caused a real upheaval among us artists and also among the people receiving the product of our sweat.

[Question 5] Do you long for collaborative projects?

Yes I do. Collaborative projects open up ones creativity in directions that you be shying away from. Certainly by collaboration in small ways with others is how I have learnt a lot.

In photography I would love to work with other artists and photographers, especially on something that involves traveling through our magnificent landscapes. The truth is many photographers prefer to keep to themselves or form tight knit cliques....its far easier to team up with painters and sculptors in my experience!!!

[Question 6] What defines Maina Maseeti’s Photography?

Well I hope beautiful and inspiring!!

I shoot things I like, things that intrigue me...I don't find myself having the urge to point my camera at say, starving refugees, sickly slum know the stuff that gets headlines.

I'm more into the enigmas of nature and the beautiful shapes, patterns and colours of our built up world.

I'm slowly learning to make a photo... other than merely taking a photo. Does it show in my pictures?? only the viewers can tell me!

[Question 7] Are you comfortable talking about spirituality and marriage?

Yes, I'm comfortable talking about marriage.

I'm a family man, one wife, a superb lady whom I'm very satisfied with and four sons, the oldest is 24 and the youngest is 5 years old.

Marriage is a venture that unfortunately we have no training in or education on when we get into it. It goes beyond just friendship with some one of the opposite sex, its deeper than merely physical attraction.

I like being married, its great fun and a woman is a really interesting being. And so very nice to look at, listen to, touch....!

I think marriage is very good grounding for creative people but then again, a wrong partner can have the opposite effect and cut ones flow of creative juices.

I can tell you if the love of your life doesn't believe in your work your days will be horribly full of tears.

Marrying a fellow artist is even better but again wrong partnering would be disastrous. I think there are more good examples of marriages helping creativity than not!

The written interview was compiled by Phineahs Munene – Co-founder of Wazo Moja for Maina Maseeti – of Afrimali

Distributed by Wazo Moja on behalf of Afrimali