XHUUMA MASEETI TOWEETT : 21st CENTURY CONTEMPORARY ARTIST
Not many of us have the ability to competently carry out multiple tasks simultaneously, and deliver satisfactory results on each task - consistently. Yet, in every lot we find there are always a few privileged people who seem to thrive doing just that. Xhuuma Maseeti Toweett is without reservations a talented artist who can also be described as a jack of many trades. >>>>
Born in November 4 1971, Xhuuma is intuitive, self taught and multi-talented who started earning a living as a freelance artist, sign writing, screen printing and graphic design since 1991. Though he never went to any art school he is an exceptional full time artist and one can tell that painting is in born while his paintings display uniqueness both in style and execution.
Working at the comforts of his home studio Serengeti Tinderet formerly known as Serengeti Studios in Ongata Rongai, Xhuuma says he has no specific style to describe his painting but closer and more intricate examination reveals a subtle line of strong energy connecting all his works. Every piece of his work is based on daily happenings from different encounters he has experienced including, dreams and each has its own story and specific message.With an aim to become a true craftsman in all his undertaking Xhuuma a father of two basically uses whatever material is at his disposal to express his feelings. From pastels, acrylics, ,color pencils, pencils, house paints, air brush or any other painting material he releases his ideas in various forms such as drawings, writing, paintings, comics, mechanical projects just to mention but a few.
Born and bred on the outskirts of Nairobi, and Langata to be precise, the son to the late Dr Taaitta Arap Toweett(Politician &Academic) also describes himself as a philosopher, seer, writer illustrator, mystical engineer, healer narrowing down to a true African. I visited his studio which happens to overlook the Nairobi National Game Park where I got to learn more about his painting career.
How can you describe yourself?
Xhuuma: It is hard to place a definition on Xhuuma.. A man of many things and many talents to different people.. a philosopher, seer, writer, painter, mechanic, healer, family man...
Xhuuma is a spiritual and mystical self taught artist whose ideas have always been considered ahead of their time…way back in 1993 when he submitted some work to the leading major art gallery he was told it was too sophisticated
… and yet again in 2006 when he approached another major art gallery they said they could not sell his work because it was ahead of the market…He is an inner traveler through this life and non-life that we live… Driven by the desire to express, he utilizes this need to understand to move beyond this outward material level. And He has the passion to bring back and convey insights distilled from the intertwined vortexes of being and non-being.
What are you currently working on?
Xhuuma: Like I mentioned earlier on I have no particular style that can describe my work. At the moment I am working on a beach painting. As you can see the painting is on its final stages and will be ready in a few days time.
What inspired the painting?
Xhuuma: Xhuuma is an artist who expresses himself through daily life experiences and encounters. He paints what he has seen, is seeing, and dreams about in this life and the other life that we live. And there is a story behind every piece that I work on.
Tell me about the beach painting
Xhuuma: The client I am painting for saw a piece(Swahili Window Painting) on Facebook and requested for a painting close to it but with a few alterations. I decided to do a beach painting.
The story behind this beach painting is simply a person taking a walk by the ocean under the tall branches
What is memorable about the Beach Painting ?
Xhuuma: I had stayed at the coast for sometime and I would go out to the beach and observe the ocean. All the interactions that happen there are intriguing. For me the most impressive aspect of it was people taking a walk by the ocean and that has been captured in the painting.
How long does it take you to complete a painting?
Xhuuma: It depends on the size of the painting I am working on but I can say that it takes some time for me to achieve the desired results.
What did you want to do in life? Did you always want to be an artist?
Xhuuma: Yes, I have always wanted to use the painting and drawing talent ever since I can remember.
What inspires or motivates you for your work?
Xhuuma: I man inspired by life itself and from the things that have happened and are happening around me. Thus it is Xhuuma’s daily life in this dimension and other dimensions that moves him to create. Each image I paint has a story which comes from personal experience or encounter.
I am however motivated by releasing ideas and expressing them away from myself. I put whatever feelings or thoughts I have in a painting or in writing.
Kindly give me an outline of some of your works both locally and internationally
||Xhuuma: I have worked on a number of pieces some of them getting displayed in quite a number of exhibitions such as ‘Manjano 2010’ Nairobi Provincial Arts Exhibition||
organized by Ministry of Culture and The Go Down Arts Centre, I exhibited at an event hosting His Royal Highness Prince Edward, at the British Council, Concurs de Elegance vintage car show 2002,Internationally my work has been sold in London, Australia, ‘The Pickup’ comic story was featured in an exhibition of African Comics in Italy I have worked with British artist Mat Franks.
Your work speaks for itself. What is the secret?
Xhuuma: Thorough commitment and patience have always helped capture the details I am looking for in a painting. Driven by the desire to express; I utilize this need to understand to move beyond this outward material level. And I the passion to bring back and convey insights distilled from the intertwined vortexes of being and non-being.
What has been your defining moment in your career?
Xhuuma: Knowing that I inspire many artists when they commend me after they have seen the depth, quality and the dedication I put in my work.
Any lousy moments? What has it been like to be on the down low?
Xhuuma: I feel disappointed whenever people mistake my paintings for pictures. For instance, during the Concours de’Elegance 2002 when people kept asking me why I was exhibiting pictures instead of paintings.
From your experience in the painting industry what are some of the things that have added valuable experience to your life as an artist?
Xhuuma: I have learned to face challenges head on. If a client wants a painting that I have never tackled before, I learn on the job as I paint it. I can never tell a client that I don’t know how to paint what they are asking for.
What is your opinion of arts scene in Kenya? What do you feel needs to be done to the current state we are in?
Xhuuma: According to me there are way too many gate keepers locking out original creative talents.
I think that this can be rectified by consumers opening their mind and realize that
opening their mind and realize that there is other works existing apart from the one established in exhibition venues.Also artists should be given exposure for improvement purposes.
What advice can you give to the upcoming artists?
Xhuuma: I would advise them to simply never give up and to always maintain the purity of their ideas until when they will be able to express them.
What do you do when you are not painting?
Xhuuma: I help my wife raise our two children; I am involved in graphic design and illustrations.
What are your plans for the future?
Xhuuma: I write a lot and I hope to compile my writings and display them together with my paintings.
Xhuuma has a very large and varied volume of work that can be seen at Gipsy bar in Westlands, Nairobi… where he started doing freelance work and commissioned works from 1995.. these have included logos for ‘Raven Lounge’, ‘Archivo’, ‘Maharishi’ and ‘Boxer’, which are different clubs and bars that have been under Gipsy bar.
He also does paintings, t-shirt designs, menus, flyers, posters, banners, a film storyboard and a short comic strip to complement an in-house cocktail called ‘Headshot’… he also creates various adverts that currently appear in ‘Msafiri’, the Kenya Airways in-flight magazine and ‘Xpat-Link’ magazine.
A few points in Xhuuma’s career…
2011 – May
Exhibits at The Velvet Room in Karen
2011 - February
Participates in ‘Manjano 2011’ Nairobi Provincial Arts Exhibition organised by Ministry of Culture and The GoDown Arts Centre, held at the Village Market.
2010 – December
participates in Westgate Shopping Mall Christmas tree project. Xhuuma decorates one of the ten 8ft high fibreglass Christmas trees. His tree is sponsored by Parapet Cleaning Services (google for their link and website)His tree is awarded second place and all the trees are later auctioned for charity
2010 – June
Participates in National Arts Exhibition organised by Ministry of Culture held at The GoDown Arts Centre
2010 – April
Organises and sets up ‘Return Of the Unseen’ Exhibition at the Café Des Arts in Gigiri, The Show features Xhuuma Maseeti (paintings), Maina Maseeti (Photograpy), Robin Njoroge (Wooden furniture/sculpture), Hudson (metal and glass sculpture), Karim Abbany (Paintings) and David Jingura (Zimbabwean stone sculpture)
2010 – February
Participates in ‘Manjano 2010’ Nairobi Provincial Arts Exhibition organised by Ministry of Culture and The GoDown Arts Centre, held at The GoDown Arts Center
2009 –September to November
Participated in ‘Pride of Kenya’ a project organised by Born Free and Wild In Art to raise money for lion conservation. Xhuuma painted two of the 50 fibreglass full-size lion sculptures that were painted and displayed around Nairobi city for two months. One of his lions was called Center Of The Universe, sponsored by CMC Landover Kenya and was displayed at the Village Market. The second lion was called ‘Cradle Of Lion Kind’, was sponsored by Sai Raj Ltd and was displayed at Agha Khan walk. The lions were auctioned in November at Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarters. ‘Center Of The Universe’ was bought by Schumacher 4x4 in Karen while ‘Cradle Of Lion Kind’ was bought by a private English bidder and is flown to the UK. (www.bornfree.org.uk , http://wildlifedirect.org ,)
2006 – February
Participated in national Arts Exhibition organised by Ministry of Culture held at KICC
2006 – August
Participated in WAPI 2 held at the British Council
2006 – September
Exhibited at event hosting His Royal Highness Prince Edward, at the British Council
2005 – December
Exhibited at Commonwealth Ministers of Culture Conference held at KICC
2005 – November
Conducted and facilitated a one week Airbrush painting workshop for students and staff at The Agha Khan Academy, Mombasa
Collaborated with visiting British artist Mat Franks, for Matt’s end of residency exhibition at The GoDown Arts Centre. Xhuuma used his airbrush skills to spray multicolour designs onto Matt Franks’s purewhite styrofoam sculptures. (google ‘Matt Franks’ for link and photo)
Helped to initiate, organise and arrange the program for the continuous Exhibition at Caltex Plaza, Limuru Rd. The exhibition was opened by the Minister for Culture, Hon. Najib Balala M.P with 25 artists participating. Xhuuma was the M.C and introduced the Minister to the paintings, then gave a speech on behalf of the artists.
2002 – October
‘The Pickup’ a short comic story by Xhuuma was included in a travelling exhibition of African Comics in Italy. “The Pickup” was also published in ‘Africa Comics’ an anthology of all the comics in that exhibition organised by Africa Mediterraneo.(www.africamediterraneo.it)
2002 – September
Organised and held an exhibition at the Concurs de Elegance vintage car show with his brother Maina Maseeti.
Xhuuma started doing free lance work for the one year old Gipsy Bar in westlands Nairobi and to date he still produces work on a regular basis (www.gipsybar.com , gipsybar also on facebook)
Xhuuma Airbrushed posters for ‘Tangerine Fusion’ band’s monthly rock revivals. Tangerine Fusion is the resident band at the Nairobi HiltonJockey Pub.