By Ogova Ondego
Published June 18, 2016
He not only uses Facebook, Twitter and Google-plus, but he also has a website and two e-mail addresses. What is more; he can be reached via WhatsApp on his smartphone. Which business executive could we be describing here?
Robin Okeyo Mbera is a sculptor or an artist who shapes material such as wood, stone or marble into three-dimensional works of art. And, unlike most artists, Mbera is based not in the Nairobi metropolis, but in rural western Kenya in East Africa.
So what is special about him?
He isn’t a typical African artist. That is what sets him apart.
“I have been sculpting semi-professionally since 2006, and professionally since 2008,” he says as he introduces himself before saying that samples of his work are on his website; robinmbera.co.ke/.
Not wishing to let him off the hook that easily, I tell him it is better for him to talk to me in person; that I will look up other information on his website late.
Alright, he obliges.
What is his favourite medium?
“I have a preference for granite but I also use Kisii soapstone, basalt, quartz, sandstone, limestone,” he says.”I also work with wood, scrap metal and other semi-precious stones like Jasper, Agate, Ruby, and Amethyst.”
What themes does he address in his work?
“Abstract themes using objects and animals,” he says
As if guessing my next question, he describes his style as ‘semi-abstract’.
“Beyond sculpting, I also train artisans on soapstone mining and excavation,” he says.
“If you want to contact me,” he says as I take a look at my vibrating cellphone, “you can send me an e-mail, leave a message on my website, text or call me. Thanks for stopping by.”
But I am not easily dismissed that way. I must get my story. I owe it to my readers. Only after getting the story will I leave.
Unable to shake off the stubborn writer, Robin Okeyo Mbera tells me he was born in Kisii almost 34 years ago.
“I joined Design Power Consultants (DEPCONS) in 2000. Here, I worked as Craft Model Designer,” he says. “I enjoyed spending time under the apprenticeship of Elikana O Ongesa, President of the Pan-African Association of Visual Artists (PAVA).”
Twelve years later, Mbera says he enrolled at African institute For Culture and Development Studies (AFRICUDS) to study Fine Art, Stone Carving, Wood, Painting, Printmaking, Fashion, Photography and Ceramics.”
He says he is currently working on commissioned sculptures in his studio, MberArt Studio, in Tabaka, Kisii County, besides researching on stone and rocks.”
He says the research has “has been instrumental in introducing me to modern ways of carving stone, i.e. swapping traditional hand tools for modern power tools.”
By constantly upgrading his artistic skills, Mbera says he is now a “skilled studio manager and effective with exhibition planning.”
He says his work can be found in collections in Kenya, France, Canada, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, China, USA, Burkina Faso and the United Kingdom among many other places on earth.
I ask the artist who says he has been working independently since 2012 what the secret to getting where he is today is.
“Patience, humility, hard work and ability to interact with people from all walks of life,” he says without much effort.
Does he have a family of his own?
“I am engaged to a beautiful woman from eastern Kenya,” he says.