EXPEDITO was a great East African Artist...and a good friend who really helped me. Without him, I dare say there wouldn't be any Inspirit Arts.
When I saw the Kenyan number on my caller ID, I thought it must be Expedito calling to tell me the dates of his art exhibit in Boston. We were both excited about reuniting after around twenty-five years of loosing track of each other. It wasn't Expedito on the line, but his son who thought I'd want to know that Expedito died last month of a heart attack.
I feel extremely grateful for what this man did for me. He trusted, helped and believed in me, when nobody else did.
Way back in the early 80's, I tried to get Kenyan artists to work together and replace the imported European made greeting cards in stationary stores with African made art cards. After doing a market research and developing a business plan, I tried to give the project away, just to get rejected by all the artists I knew.
Greeting cards weren't used in Kenyan culture, so none of them believed that little pictures on folded paper was a viable product. People got really suspicious of me when I showed how they could earn incredibly high profit margins from selling locally made cards at the inflated imported prices that foreigners and tourists were used to paying. This seemed too good to be true, and I was labeled a swindler. Since I couldn't even give away the business plans, I decided to do it myself, if I could convince a famous African artist to collaborate with me.
At that time, I only knew Expedito by reputation. He was probably the most sought after artist in Nairobi, and considered very elusive (because he shunned the lime light) , and also very exclusive because he habitually turned down lucrative job offers that most artists spend their entire lives dreaming for. I knew that if I could get Expedito to design greeting cards for me, the other artists would pay attention and eventually agree to work collectively.
I'll never forget the day Expidito showed up at my door, holding a note I'd written practically begging him to give me a chance, even though I had very little money, and no experience. I remember how excited and nervous I was meeting with a genius of his caliber. After thinking I'd made a total fool of myself trying to explain my vision of unifying artists, Expidito asked when I wanted to get started. I screamed and he laughed watching me do the happy dance. A few days later, he returned with a pile of drawings for me to choose from, and take to print. It was hard to believe.
I decided to elaborate the greeting cards by attaching hand made earrings to them. Being known for his carved wooden combs, Expedito offered to make some miniature ebony comb earrings for me to put on his drawings. I gave him some money as a deposit. He came back with a few hundred pairs of extremely intricate combs that he had hand carved for me. They were super thin and about the size of my big toe nail. I had never seen such quality craftsmanship before. I remember being awe struck, and asked to return them because they were worth so much more than the price we'd agreed upon. Expedito just smiled. He had a certain smile that communicated, "... and this too, shall be continued , my dear'. At that moment that I realized how much he wanted to support Inspirit Arts.
In the following years, Expedito and I spent time together and developed a solid friendship. before we lost touch when I moved from Kenya to Swaziland. He was always so mysterious and spiritual, clearly connected to another plane of existence. No matter how hard I tried to get him to explain his poetry and other things to me, he always forced me to wait for his answers, while encouraging me to try intuiting answers for myself. I always wondered if he'd ever make a pass at me, but he was more interested in talking about ways to mobilize artists and improve the world. Despite his generally serious demeanor, we always found something to laugh about. Yes, we sure did laugh a lot. I'll remember him with a smile on both our faces.
Here are some links to the Kenyan media.