From a criminal to a ‘fine’ artist, James Mutugi has seen it all

James Mutugi Wangechi, a middle aged man born and raised in the slums of Mukuru is on the verge of changing lives through fine arts.

Speaking to Ruben Fm’s Gumzo Mtaani Show on Thursday, James seemed happy to have changed. Life indeed has been rough.

“My parents separated when I was in class one and I was left with my mother alone. Life here in Mukuru is challenging and that led me to pickpocketing. I was not influenced by any one, but I needed money to survive,” said James who gladly added that he misses his father whom he has not seen in decades, but he remembers him drawing pictures and other paintings.

He started his schooling at Mukuru primary school in the early nineties and recalls in 1992 having an interest in arts while still young.

James did well in primary school and was admitted at Pumwani Secondary School and here he met Mr Owino who fine tuned his skills.

“He was a master, but he never trusted me at one second. From the onset of my high school education, he could tell that I was a criminal and always cautioned me that I won’t last long in life despite my special drawing talents,” James remembered with regrets.

Immediately after finishing his final exams, he snatched a woman’s hand bag and was arrested. The son of Wangechi spent two months at Kamiti remand prison and was lucky that his charges were dropped.

Interestingly, at Kamiti prison he continued with his passion for fine arts. While in prison he won the Ten Thousand Access to Justice Awards. He was later released, but the reality about life in Mukuru slum is poverty.

Life in and out of jails and remands has taught him a lot as he later joined the Mukuru Community Art center in South B.

James Mutugi has developed into a master of fine arts, as both a teacher and an artist who truly has understood the art of turning his skills into an employment opportunity.

Now the community leader is calling upon any person in Mukuru Slum that has a desire to learn art to join him at Mukuru Community Art Center.



By Shadrack Andenga Odinga

shadrackandenga@gmail.com



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