If imagination is the first blueprint for an altered reality, dreamwork is an act of activism. Kenyan artist Nyokabi Kimari creates new realms through their art, engaging in world-making with each piece they birth into our dimension.
In Nyokabi’s world, the artist is a conduit: a translator of the unseen via intuitive downloads.
We are more than our bodies.
Ancestral wisdom is a central form of knowledge and creativity is a channel to communicate with those who came before us.
We move in cycles; every ending making way for a beginning just as glorious, and time, a vast continuum of possibilities.
From their home in Nairobi, Nyokabi invited me to look through their eyes.
Tell me about your artistic background…
I’ve been doing art for as long as I can remember. I recently started doing oil painting but before it was a totally different form of expression. I used to do doodle art. I’m not even sure how to explain it but yeah, doodle art. More recently I’ve started to explore different kinds of media.
What about your cultural background? You’re based in Nairobi now. Is that home for you?
Born and based in Nairobi all my life.
How would say Nairobi informs your work, if at all?
Right now, the Nairobi creative scene is really lit, so it’s inspired me in the way that I now know that I can live as an artist and I know that there are other people near me living as artists as well. There’s a cool creative community, and that’s how it’s inspired my work, but I wouldn’t say it has informed my practice directly – apart from obviously that I have this earth that I live on and share with my ancestors.
What is exciting you about the creative scene right now?
Everything. If you listen to someone’s music or watch a film, it’s not going to be like anything you’ve ever seen. Everything is so new, and artists aren’t conforming to any rules at all.
Are there other artists working in Nairobi that you see yourself working with?
Definitely, Bakhita. She is such an amazing artist. Her work is so incredible and she’s an artist as well as a musician and creative director. There’s also Wanjohii, an amazing digital artist whose work is about spirituality and transcendence. The way he composes is especially beautiful. There are so many people musically, visually … too many artists to name.
Who else excites you, beyond Nairobi?
There’s this artist from the States called Nadine Cluvie Pierre – an oil painter [who creates] massive paintings, kind of like self-portraits but featuring angels. There’s so much depth and emotion in her work. She’s one of my biggest inspirations. There’s also this guy called Mark Rogers – he does some trippy paintings about this race at this time [using] knowledge from the earth and from crystals, which is another one of my inspirations. Sometimes I do a painting and then I go on Instagram and he’s done something similar. I think we’re both tapped into that consciousness and that is really cool.
Embodied knowledge and ancestral wisdom are recurring themes in your work. How does your own lineage and personal history manifest in what you create?
Before I do a painting, I make an offering to my ancestors. We talk to each other. I feel their presence. So, when I’m painting it’s in a way, downloading. A way for us to experience each other and for me to learn from them. I get so many messages this way, when I’m listening. For me, painting is a spiritual practice where I get to talk to my guides and just fully channel them.
How would you describe your own beliefs?
I believe in so many things. In everything and nothing at the same time. You know that theory, that this [life] could all be something we’re collectively dreaming? I believe that this could be a simulation. 90% of me believes that there is an afterlife. I believe that we are on this plane to remember how it feels to love ourselves as individuals but we’re just one being. If your karma isn’t done, then you come back to relearn and re-love. But then also, this could all be fake, and we could all be dreaming…
I ask that because the theme of death and destruction is really present in your work. Especially with the number 9, which I understand to be one of completion, rebirth, and conclusion – a hopeful conclusion. It’s my favourite number.
It means the same thing to me. My sun sign is Scorpio and we’re ruled by Mars, which governs destruction and rebirth. My chart is so Scorpio, so I’m a very destructive and rebirthing human. Number 9, for me, is the number of completion. It reminds you that there is no end. If it’s completed then something else has to start because if you finish, you move on. It makes me feel like I don’t have to be perfect all the time and I’ll always be reborn. It’s very calming.
There’s also something to be said about destruction making room for the new; new forms of being, seeing, existing. As a queer artist, how do you feel this relates to you?
My work represents a spirituality that is fluid, where whatever sexuality or gender expression you are you can be comfortable knowing that there are realms that cater to you- that aren’t limited to whatever genitals you have or whoever you like. I like creating realms where none of these physical bodies matter and you can do whatever you want and just focus on you being a light being who is full of love, and able to express that love to whoever.