Circle Art Auction 2015 Lot 51 Ashif Malamba

Ashif Malamba (Kenyan, 1972-2015)
My Throne, 2014
Plastic bag collage on wood
99 x 45 x 46 cm

Ksh 90,000-120,000
US$ (US$ 820-1,090)
Sold Ksh 99,790

Provenance: from the artist’s estate

In life as in death – in memory of the artist Ashif Malamba (1972-2015).

Ashif Malamba is not as well-known as his other Maasai Mbili colleagues. The reason being was that he was the reserved one – who never left Kibera unless it was necessary, who preferred to work in the studio late at night to avoid interruptions, who avoided the glare of the media.

He was also known as Shifta in Kibera, and Somali Pirate by many art patrons who collected his Somali Pirate series painted on T-shirts, canvas, plywood, tin boxes, overalls and the walls of Kibera themselves.

Ashif’s power to reinvent his art will be his legacy. After leaving school, he became a sign writer and screen printer in Kibera. In 2003, before joining Maasai Mbili, he was already an accomplished painter. At the time he was mainly doing portraits of black empowerment luminaries such as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and Haile Selassie as well as postcard sized paintings of the rooftops of Kibera, in yellow and burnt umber hues.

In 2008, when the post-election violence erupted, Ashif was a member of the M2 studio, as were Gomba, Wiki, Rabala, Solo 7, Kevo Stero and Christine. This was the group that captured international media attention for their peace keeping community efforts with children and artists as the violence continued. As each artist developed their own personal reaction to the situation Ashif invented his P.M posters; tongue in cheek political criticism of the guile and excesses of the Kenyan political classes.

After 2010 Ashif travelled with Maasai Mbili to Austria, Denmark and Sweden, where he attended workshops, festivals. His work is held in important collections in Kenya and abroad but most importantly his work will live in the kids that he taught in street classes, the murals and signs in Kibera, as well as his public activities for the sake of peace in Kibera, his home.

By Mbuthia Maina, artist and friend.