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A second career after retirement


Carole Munene with some of her artwork at her home in Nairobi on April 13, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Summary

  • Ms. Munene’s art, which she described as exciting, includes a variety of mediums such as flowers, wood, paper, string, glass, fabrics such as netting and lace, cardboard and cement combined on canvas to create fun art.
  • He also uses strong textures achieved through everyday objects like combs and hair forks as well as bright and vivid colors – reds, yellows, blues, greens – and dark colors like black. It is a work rich in character.

If Carol Munene had been allowed by her father to pursue her dreams, she would have been the front desk manager of the hotel she admired the most: Serena Hotels.

But her father saw in her something she didn’t: a creative genius. So he sent her, his only daughter, to a university near her home, where she could pursue studies in fashion and design.

“I eventually fell in love with fabrics and for over 20 years I designed wedding dresses,” she says in her art studio in Nairobi.

In 2019 however, she got bored. Her well of inspiration dried up and she knew it was time to do something else. She retired from the industry and returned home to an empty house.

“So I was there with all this fabric that I didn’t want to stop working with because the fabrics are in my DNA, and in time. I started looking for new ways to use it and came across DIY fabric vases. I was super excited and made one,” she says, and with the enthusiasm of a child shows it to me.

The semicircle vase, made from net fabric, is green in color and lightweight. Excellent for transporting dried flowers to display at the table or at the reception.

Although it wasn’t as perfect as she had imagined or the process as easy as YouTube made it seem, a fire was lit that was unquenchable. She read and experimented with everything she could get her hands on about the use of fabric in art.

“I bought paints, brushes and books, tried different painting techniques and worked with different types of materials. The goal was to find what kind of art I liked to create. I ended up falling in love with mixed media and textured painting.

Soufflé

Amid the pandemic, the fashion designer found a second career as a mixed media painter to guide her through her sunset years.

Mixed media painting, says Munene, is an art form that combines different media into a single painting.

“It means anything and everything around me can create art,” says the mother-of-two. “Because it’s unrestricted, I really appreciate it.”

cooking pots

Pots of Carole Munene at her home in Nairobi on April 13, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

His studio, which was once his children’s playroom, is full of this art that “let my personality shine through”.

Ms. Munene’s art, which she described as exciting, includes a variety of mediums such as flowers, wood, paper, string, glass, fabrics such as netting and lace, cardboard and cement combined on canvas to create fun art.

He also uses strong textures achieved through everyday objects like combs and hair forks as well as bright and vivid colors – reds, yellows, blues, greens – and dark colors like black. It is a work rich in character.

“I’m blown away – no, ‘captivated’ is the word – by what I create because as I work on a painting I normally experiment to see what works and what doesn’t”, the artist says.

I ask what stories she wants her paintings to tell.

“Well, I’ve learned that art is for your audience. There’s what you try to convey as an artist and what your audience interprets by interacting with it. Generally, I want to serve happiness. I want them (the paintings) to excite the senses and desires of the public.

The interpretation she received left her shocked in a good way. He evoked fiery emotions and memories of people and places they have seen or been with in this carnival of souls.

Currently, her paintings and vases hang in various rooms with family, close friends and their friends who find them on her CraftsbyCiiku Instagram page.

Currently, Mrs. Munene has 20 paintings and 15 vases ready to splash with joy in someone’s living room, bedroom, hallway, office or meeting room. For the first two paintings she sold, she quoted a random price, 25,000 shillings for each.

art

Artwork by Carole Munene at her home in Nairobi on April 13, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

“I was surprised when the buyer – my brother – agreed. Every time I see them at his house, it’s like the first time.

As interest in her work grew, she sought advice from a painter on pricing who gave her a formula for valuing her work.

When does she know that a piece is ready to be sold?

“When he leaves the house. The thing about mixed media art is that it can always be expanded by adding or removing something.

But there is a whole ceremony before the piece leaves. She takes pictures because it is a job she will never be able to reproduce.

“It is my heart spread on the canvas. I can’t conjure again with the same intensity,” the 49-year-old says. Her next project is her son’s headboard wall art.

As such, there is no such thing as bad art. What may seem like poison to him is another man’s meat. Paintings that she considers “bad”, she stores them, cries and laments over them. It is also kept as a reminder that in life things don’t always go the way you want them to.

Two years later, she now shares her painting skills with others – children. Something that brings him immense joy is creating the art himself. A grandmother herself, she can’t wait for her grandson to learn how to hold a paintbrush. Until then, she works with other children.

work of art

Artwork by Carole Munene at her home in Nairobi on April 13, 2022. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA | NMG

Painting with them on handmade snacks, she believes kids can be creative if only we let them.

“Painting is therapeutic. It’s a great way to talk to kids. I am generally fascinated by their ability to interpret their art. Painting is a medium through which they express their feelings and thoughts, allowing us to see what is in their hearts,” she explains.

When people consider retirement, they tend to embark on low-risk, safe, and familiar ventures. Ms. Munene took on something she had never done before. Why?

“People my age can afford to take risks. On the one hand, there is a release that comes from knowing who you are. I overcame the fear of other people’s opinions. Second, we know failure is not failure. Third, if we don’t do it now, when will we do it? I learned to live and to be happy. Therefore, I chose to do things that I enjoy and that I am passionate about. Age with swag, not heartbreak.

Art is also an expensive business and she considers it a great privilege to have the resources to pursue it.

As my time with her comes to an end, I ask her how her father, who passed away in 2019, would react if he found her as a retiree pursuing mixed media art.

“He would be extremely proud of me.”

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