He carves objects out of wood,bone,stone and any other material solid enough to bring out his creations. He carves objects out of any material that can show the purposefulness of his ambitions. By carving he gives his creations a face, a body and at times character. If only he could breath life into them.He always carves like its his last. He gives it all he has got. All his creations seem real. Like all works of art, his creations have tiny flaws so that they do not compete with God’s perfection.
Julius Muema is not only an artist but defines ‘an artist’. He creates and practices art. A carving knife, a chisel and a gouge to him are like a paint and brush to Picasso. With them he can carve anything; real or imagined. His tools understand the struggle of his art. He has scars on his hands to show their uncooperativeness at times. His hands are small, just like the rest of his body.The numerous bracelets on his wrists seem to enhance his skill since he never takes them off. His five inch dread locks cover his eyes when he is bent at work. When carving , Julius wears a gray apron with numerous autographs and signatures of his clients and people who admire his work. The numerous autographs and signatures are a reminder that someone admires his work. It helps him squeeze out all the skill in him. The apron is more than just a protective garment, its a motivational garment.He wears it like a priest wears his robes during services; like a holy garment. Probably that’s why instead of replacing it , it has numerous patches.
He works in a small shed behind his house. From outside, the shed appears like a small abandoned garage . Its made of timber, a concrete floor and rusty iron sheets. the abandoned rusty shed transforms into an art gallery once you step inside. A rare art gallery. It has perfect lighting. Enough lighting to enable you study the paintings on the walls. Julius collects paintings when he can or trades them with carvings. the shed has a variety of carvings and sculptures. From miniature to life size carvings. From wood to stone carvings. His apron hangs on a nail behind the wooden door. He walks in the shed like a priest performing sacred rituals in a temple.
He has worked in the shed for five years. He has worked in the shed ever since he walked out of a lecture hall in Kenyatta University. Ever since he decided to feed his dreams and starve his fears. The shed became his new lecture hall when he decided he had had enough of Economics lectures. Unlike most , completing the degree would be like walking away from his dreams; feeding his fears. He was only twenty but could not imagine spending the rest of his life behind an office desk in a suit. So, he traded the suit for a patched, autographed apron. The suit and desk were what most of his mates wanted. The suit and desk were what his parents wanted for him. That’s what they considered and still consider success; not going after your dreams. “You are like to starve while going after your dreams”, an advice he chose to ignore though he never forgot.
A college dropout could not fit in their home, so he moved out. It is in the outskirts of Nakuru that he found a new home. A new home with a rusty shed that he repaired with his own hands with all the strength he could gather. A shed that has now seen him transform into the god he is now. He is self taught; not even a mentor. In that shed he has made more mistakes than he can count in the learning process. In that shed, he has nursed self inflicted wounds on his fingers when he could not control his tools. It is in that shed he at times sits for hours gazing at the rusty roof when his creativity fails him. It is in the same shed that he at times feeds the demons in his head, with fears that he may starve while going after his dreams.
With the passing of seasons, he has perfected his art, his dreadlocks have grown longer just like his beard, the palms of his hands rougher and his dreams more uncertain. An artist can not live on compliments and admiration for his work. Despite the numerous autographs, sales are low. throw away prices when he manages to make sales. At times he considers himself a man on the edge. On the edge about to fall off: into hopelessness, into statistics of artists whose work never went beyond their friends. At every sunset, part of the ground he stands on-at the edge- is chipped out. His fears might come true.
Julius does not ask what his country can do for him but rather what he can do for his country, and he has already done it. He has been doing it-full time- for the past five years . He has carved, waxed and displayed his creations; for himself and his country. This may be a fine time to take up an offer he has been putting away for a while. An year ago, a man who smelled Italian cologne- because he is Italian- offered him a place in his gallery in Italy. The Italian has made several autographs in the tattered apron over the years, a testimony of how he feels about Julius’s creations. Julius has been living under the illusion that soon his dreams will come true without having to change his citizenship. Now he may have to make a second trade.
No matter how much he drowns himself in his art, he still comes up for air and breathes reality of the edge. Reality that its time to move the contents of his shed to a foreign land. Probably its time he constructed another fantasy to keep him going. Now that he will not be far from Rome, a fantasy of the Pope’s autograph on his apron would do.
Soundtrack: No fear– Rasmus