Alpha Odhiambo is a self-taught artist who lives and works in Nairobi.
"I became passionate about art when I was about seven,” says Alpha, 21, born and raised in Nairobi’s slum, Kibera. “I have not studied art at a college. I learn by going to exhibitions, galleries and sale houses. I am influenced by Warhol and Van Gogh, and follow Cuban artist CB Hoyo, but my real hero is an American graffiti artist, Jean-Michel Basquiat.”
Alpha believes that art in Kenya "must be made public", that "art must be available in daily life to everyone, so people learn to appreciate and engage with art." He thinks that Kenyan media, too, should play a more proactive role in promoting art to the public.
Odhiambo’s source of inspiration is his Kibera upbringing: “Kibera is fun! People are poor but they are happy too.” His Afro-expressionist work is a social commentary and critique on his upbringing in Kibera. His tightly populated paintings are packed with menacing urban existence rendered through drawing, painting and collage, which appropriate both text and images, abstraction and figuration.
Alpha dreams of starting his own art magazine ‘ODH’ (the first three letters of his name). “It would show art made by Africans to Africans. Currently there is no such magazine. It would help teach Kenyans about art and also strengthen the Kenyan art market, which is currently virtually non-existent and a big challenge. Sadly, only ten percent of my art buyers are Africans.”
Alpha has a studio in Westlands, Nairobi. His work is in private local and international collections.
MASK Awards 2018
“My inspiration comes from every blink and second of my life.”
UN, Nairobi, Kenya, 2015
Nairobi National Museum, Nairobi, Kenya, 2014
Panafrican Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya, 2017
One Off Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya, 2021, 2022
'Alpha Odhiambo: make art public' by Alla Tkachuk, The Star, Kenya, February 2020