By Prudence Minayo
Cyprian Kiswili, known to many as Kharsh, is an award winning Kenyan designer, artist and illustrator working as a designer and product development manager at Enda, Africa’s first running shoes manufacturer. He designed Artcafe’s takeaway cup and also had his art featured at Manchester United’s Instagram page.
The official Manchester United Shirt sponsor, Chevrolet, reached out and asked whether they could share his image and he agreed.
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The celebrated artiste has illustrated a book that is on Amazon titled Hilda the Cat and Friends.
Here is his story as told by WoK.
Finding his talent
Cyprian realized he could draw at the age of 6 but it became more apparent five years later when he would be called from time to time to draw charts and diagrams used for illustration in class. At the time, he did not think he could make a career out of it.
His parents also helped to nurture this talent by buying him drawing books, and watercolor paints among other things.
He decided to take art design seriously when he came home with a report card that read 2/30 while in high school. His dad asked him if he was serious with art and this made him realize that he needed to take it a notch higher.
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One of the events that fostered his love for drawing was when he won a competition by Bic and Insyder magazine where they were to draw using a Bic pen. This experience was very invigorating for him as being featured on Insyder at the time was a very big deal.
The only issue was that the person in charge of rewards absconded with the prize money. He was involved in another project high school that showcased how talented he was that the external examination supervisor went to their school in search of him.
Growing his art
Later, he joined the University of Nairobi to undertake an undergraduate degree in Arts and Design. In his second year, he began taking part in exhibitions. He tried the Manjano exhibition but failed to reach top three position.
Cyprian Kiswili continued to diligently look for exhibitions and got the opportunity to exhibit at The Nairobi National Museum on a number of occasions.
In 2019 Bata were celebrating 125 years as a global footwear brand. They organized a competition in which he was among the two finalists from Kenya. They travelled to Prague to meet other finalists and Cyprian emerged the winner from Kenya at the Bata’s Global Shoe Design Competition.
Before this, he had never thought of becoming a footwear designer. In fact, when his lecturer informed him of the competition, he thought it strange since he had chosen to specialize in unconventional illustration and the competition was aimed at product designers. Nonetheless, it opened the doors for him to get into footwear designing and to eventually work with Enda.
In 2020, he won the best design at a campaign organized by Artcaffe to design their take away cups called #Artofthecity. After winning the competition, his art was exhibited at Artcafe’s Westgate shopping mall branch.
Apart from his Bachelor’s degree in Design, he has a Master of Arts from the University of Nairobi. Cyprian Kiswili also holds a certificate in Footware Design from Fashion Institute of Technology.