Staice Shitanda, a multimedia visual artist, recently featured in one of the UK’s leading newspapers, The Guardian, as part of the ‘New Faces in Contemporary African Portraiture’ exhibition at London’s Doyle Wham Gallery. His innovative and experimental portraits created excitement.
Staice became interested in art at an early age. This is normal for any child. However, whether a child’s interest expands into something more meaningful often depends on his parents or teachers. In Staice’s case, he was lucky. Although his creativity wasn’t nurtured in school because many primary schools in Kenya, sadly, choose not to teach ‘Creative Arts’ despite it being part of the curriculum, he found the support he needed in his parents. Staice’s father, an engineer by profession, is also a keen photographer. Staice recalls how fascinated he was looking at the images that his father took. And that’s how Staice’s passion for art began.
It was at secondary school, when Staice took up painting at an art club, that he discovered that “there is more to art than just drawing or painting”. What became “really thrilling”, he says, is to use photography to capture a moment in time that evokes deep emotions. “Instead of painting people I could take a real person and turn him or her into art. Collecting random pieces of clothing and objects, I would make them into wearable collages and put them on my models. I am interested in fashion. I love combining different arts.”
Staice is now studying architecture at Jomo Kenyatta University, together with his friend Kigera Njau, who also won a MASK Award in 2019. However, after university, Staice hopes to pursue his art full time. He explains: “I chose to study architecture because I could not draw realistically when I was growing up, so ended up drawing a lot of houses. But having done art photography for four years now, I know that I want to pursue a career in the visual arts.” The reason, he says, is, “Through art I communicate better who I am.
“I want to show people that there is more to life than rigidity and convention. I want to challenge the established rhythms of life. Society conditions us to be a particular way. But everyone is different. We want to celebrate life. With my art I want to say: don’t conform, challenge your way of living.” Staice’s work speaks about vitality and the spirit of youth; the need and desire to be creative; the yearning for novelty and longing for change.
MASK Awards 2018
My work seeks to explore the presence and absence of the mind from reality by engaging with a distant memory, time and place that creates a soft allusive nostalgia for the unknown. It is a showcase of beauty and life’s dualities from an unconstrained perspective that delves into challenging a preconceived obstinate rhythm of life and stretches to cross the unseen line that separates our fantasies from reality.
2021- Architecture at Jomo Kenyatta University, Nairobi
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