When Kitenge Fabric Is the Canvas This is What You Get

Typically, pop-up shops aimed at tourists are not the place to find artwork. However, among a slew of tourists mementos occasionally unique works appear, which is the story of this piece, initially seen in a bar above a table of ebony carvings and beaded jewelry.

Roughly torn strips of kitenge, a brightly colored East African fabric, covered in geometric shapes create the canvas.

In the foreground are two elephants, an adult, and juvenile. The focal point is a large black swirl prominently featured on the adult elephant’s face like a tattoo. The viewer’s eye travels across the curved body following the contrasting patterns upward into the rest of the work.


In the middle of the painting is a solitary tree. Further in the distance are Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru. Coral colored spirals, black rectangles, and teal leaves peek through the paint of Kilimanjaro giving it a natural rocky feel despite the electric colors.

The fabric in the sky is entirely blocked out except for the space representing the tree leaves, where bright orange, mustard, and navy fabrics meet lime, canary and pumpkin paint. Blue polka-dots coat the trunk of the tree.

There is nothing about the work that is perfect. Not the rectangular frame, not the saturation, the perspective, nor anatomy.

However, its coloration and street art vibe implies that the artist has more potential than his souvenir stand suggests.