GET TO KNOW: Achieng Owira

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On today’s segment of ‘Get to Know’ we feature the lovely Miss Achieng Owira a Visual Artist from Nairobi, Kenya. Though having a degree in Communications and Public Relations she chose to purse her passion for art which she describes as a form of release for her as she discovers who she is and what she’s capable of. She draws inspirations from her environ but also mostly Africa and its diverse culture. She hopes in future every artist will be given equal opportunities to showcase their work and also the industry will get to appreciate female artist and the work that they showcase. Here’s what the visual artist hard to say about herself, and her journey in the art industry;

Tell is something about Achieng?

Achieng Owira is a first born daughter of two kids, born and raised in Mombasa and moved to Kisumu in 2017 then to Nairobi in December 2021. I am a lover of nature, beauty, fashion, hair and ice-cream. I have a degree in communications and public relations from Moi University but choose to pursue my passion for art.

When did you discover your passion for art?

I have been drawing ever since I can remember but never really thought I could turn it into my career. My earliest memory of me drawing is when I was 7 or 8 years old and I and my best friend would compete to see who could come up with the best drawing in a set amount of time. It was just a thing I’ve always been able to do and that helped me escape some tumultuous parts of my childhood. Fast forward to 2020 during the lockdown when I decided to find what I was good at so I can begin to pursue it. I tried cooking, writing, and even almost started influencing but the pressure was too much for me and none of these held my attention long enough. Then I realized all this time I was looking I was still filling up my sketchbooks and had done maybe two pencil drawing commissions. So I decided to dive further into art and bought my first Watercolour set and started experimenting with paint for the very first time. I began to see progress with every painting and that encouraged me to keep going and see where it takes me and now I can’t stop. I’m in love!

How do you always perceive art and how would say art has changed your life in general?

Art in any form is release. Like a catharsis of sorts, at least for me. My journey with art has and still is helping me rediscover who I am and what I am capable of. It definitely is not an easy journey. But I have learnt to be brave and persistent and patient in my pursuit of my dreams. I have learnt to build brick by brick a life for myself that fulfills me. I think it still shocks my mom how much I have been able to accomplish with something that started somewhat as a hobby. And that has definitely made us even closer.

Where do you draw your inspiration from and what makes you make this type of art?

I draw my inspiration from Africa. The people, Our diverse cultures, our food, our colorful attires and the intricate patterns of our fabrics, our connection with wildlife throughout history, our jewelry, our traditions, our beautiful terrain, our women, their ability to be both sensual and strong, nurturing and resilient, beautiful and brave. A force of nature really. There’s inspiration everywhere around me.

What does your artwork represent?

My work represents the African person finally taking the pen and writing their own narrative. Through my paintings, I interrogate the shifting identities of African people as we navigate an ever-evolving modern-day society. Grasping onto our roots so that our cultures and heritage are not forgotten, letting go of regressive traditions and prioritizing our mental and spiritual well-being, and just finally taking up space and showing up in the fullness of our existence.

What does your art mean to you?

Everything! My perspective has obviously shifted from art being just a hobby and I now realize my responsibility as an artist to shape society through the stories I tell. And I am still very new to the industry but I aspire to have a lasting impact on the people who consume my art and on the industry.

At the current moment, which art trends inspire your work?

I don’t know if this is a trend or has been going on forever, but I’m living for how black people are getting more representation in art. I am so glad I am a part of that movement.

Who is your biggest influence?

God. After all, he is the greatest artist to have ever existed. And my whole journey has required a deeper level of faith and relationship with him. It is why I have come this far. And My mother. She is by far the most loving, beautiful, and resilient person I know. And knowing that she supports me now gives me all the motivation I need to keep pushing boundaries.

How do you cultivate a collector’s base for your art to be displayed in an art gallery?

I would say finding your personal style as an artist is the first step. Striving to retain your autonomy and authenticity builds credibility for collectors. Keep sharing your work online and jumping on opportunities to showcase it even if it’s not in a gallery. The more people are exposed to your work the more you’re likely to meet your next collector or be discovered by a gallery. And lastly, keep submitting your art for open calls from art galleries.

How do you price your work?

I consider the subject of the painting first, then the size, then the time it took, and lastly the cost of materials. But if we’re being honest, with art, your skill level, how long you’ve been in the industry, the location you’re selling at and the type of clients you get matter in your pricing.

What has been your breakthrough moment ever since you began art?

I don’t think I’ve had that yet honestly. But I have had a number of highlights. Like when I was invited to live paint at the museum for the affordable art show, selling my first original painting in April and showcasing with Tewas art gallery alongside amazing, talented east African female artists.

What are some of the challenges you face as an artist?

The biggest challenge I would say is art is an expensive career. No one prepares you for how much you need to invest and reinvest in your craft to see it grow. The other challenge would be learning how to handle the business side of art because moving art pieces can be very slow at times and you need to always be financially, mentally, and emotionally prepared for seasons of drought

What other hobbies do you have apart from art?

I love swimming, traveling, trying new cuisines, and nature trails, and reading sometimes.

If given a chance what can you change in the art industry?

I would say gatekeeping opportunities. I believe every artist deserves a fair chance at opportunities to further their career or sell their artworks. And I would give more female Kenyan /east African female artists the opportunity to showcase their work.

What advice would you give to an aspiring artist?

Always go after it. It is such a fulfilling journey, but also Brace yourself and pace yourself, it is not an easy journey and it requires a lot of patience and self-work.

Lastly, what are your social media handles and where can people get to buy your art?

DM me on any of my social platforms or send an email for enquires on my pieces.

IG: @achieng_owira    Twitter: @artchieng_owira   email: joyachieng048@gmail.com

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