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MY HUSTLE: Art is our lifesaver



By Margaret Maina
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Having a passion for art and making a living from the venture is not new. But for two students at Egerton University, Nakuru, their art is their lifesaver.

Daniel Oguti, 22, and Gladys Anyika, 20, both studying criminology, make mosaic art and sell them to pay their fees and meet other daily expenses.

Their shared financial struggles and passion for art have made them become inseparable friends and business partners.

Daniel was born and raised in Busia County. From a young age, he loved drawing and in Form Two he decided to explore mosaic art using canvas, glue and the ‘olenge grass’ found in Busia.

He sold the pieces and used the money to pay his school fees. He scored a B+ in his KCSE exam and secured admission at Egerton University.

The Third Year student, pursuing a degree in criminology and security studies, says the financial challenges he faced while growing up taught him to be independent and work hard for a better future.

Mosaic art made from olenge grass.

Mosaic art made from olenge grass. PHOTO | AYUB MUIYURO

Daniel is the first child in a family of four siblings and was brought up by his grandfather. His artwork brought hope as he was able to support his family and pay school fees through his earnings.

He has sold portraits and other artwork to many leaders in Kenya.

Daniel’s art pieces sell at a minimum of Sh1,500, depending on the size, and he markets them door-to-door.

Gladys, who grew up in Mathare in Nairobi, got a B plain in her KCSE exam. Her passion for law and justice led her to pursuing criminology and security studies at Egerton University.

Gladys met Daniel in campus. She spent a lot of time with him learning the skill, and her love for art grew.

Together with Daniel, she makes mosaic art pieces for sale to enable her pay her school fees and have money for her upkeep.

“My parents had difficulty educating my siblings and I. In campus now, with a lot of harmful behaviour, I did not want to be idle. I wanted something to do that will give me some income so that I don’t stress my parents [by asking them] to foot my bills. I must admit now that art has come in handy,” she says.

Mosaic art made from olenge grass.

Mosaic art made from olenge grass. PHOTO | AYUB MUIYURO

Daniel and Gladys share the profits they make from their sales and sometimes make between Sh20,000 and Sh30,000 on a good month.

However, they yearn to sell more pieces. At the moment, they have limited time to market their artwork as they juggle between their class work and making the art pieces. But they hope their art will also attract more people nationwide.

But their work is not without challenges. Daniel usually has to travel to his village in Busia every now and then to get the olenge grass. And sometimes, when they are marketing their art pieces, they realise many people still do not appreciate art. But they are hopeful people will appreciate and pay for the art.

The two also hope to get a sponsor to help them set up an art gallery where they can showcase their work and also train people to make a living through art. They feel an art gallery will help curb idleness and prevent drug and substance abuse, and keep youth away from crime.

Mosaic art made from olenge grass.

Mosaic art made from olenge grass. PHOTO | AYUB MUIYURO

Gladys’ work inspired her younger sister to also pursue mosaic art. Gladys had sent 14-year-old Marion Nyangweso a mosaic success card as she was sitting her KCPE exam this year. Marion says it was beautiful and unique, and she yearned to learn how to make one.

As soon as she completed her exams, she travelled to Nakuru to live with Gladys and learn how to do mosaic art.

“I want to follow in my sister’s footsteps to study criminology as the situation in the slums has taught me painful lessons. Although I want to know more about art, I would focus on it as a part-time hustle,” Marion says.

She is already selling her artwork to raise fees for secondary school.

For Gladys, art is a way of expression and deep messages can be passed through their artwork.

“Art is a form of creation. All our pieces have a deeper meaning that only those who value art will understand. Every piece has a story behind it,” Gladys adds.

Daniel and Gladys encourage young people never to idle around, and instead use their free time to build their future.