Eric Kirimi Muthomi’s life has changed because of art – and encouragement.
Eric Kirimi Muthomi is a familiar, smiling face to anyone who visits Georgetown University in Qatar – but the security guard uniform he wears only brushes the surface of his story.
That’s because, having been inspired by Qatar Foundation – his workplace, but also the place where his life and talent took a new turn – Eric has, in a short space of time, become an accomplished painter with a passion for helping other artists in Qatar realize their creative potential.
And it all started from a chance conversation with the dean of Georgetown University in Qatar (GU-Q), one of Qatar Foundation’s partner universities, after an art exhibition at Education City that Eric – who, until then, had never considered putting brush to canvas – had attended.
“We had a talk about my life, he asked me whether I could paint, and I wasn’t sure whether to tell him that I could because, at that point, I had never even touched a brush or even smelt paint before,” he explains.
“I knew I could draw – as a kid, I used to draw animations and from comics. And when he asked me about it, I knew it was something I wanted to try in the future, so I told him ‘yes, I can paint’. So he asked me to paint something for him.”
Somebody inspired me to start painting, so I also wanted to support others, because I have met so many people who can paint but are afraid of it or not sure about it.
The result – which Eric, who is from Kenya, created after spending an entire night watching YouTube videos of how to paint - now hangs on the wall of GU-Q dean Dr. Ahmad Dallal’s office. “He was really impressed and he asked me ‘why don’t you try art?’, telling me that if I did, maybe the university could have an exhibition of my paintings,” says Eric. “That really motivated me.”
Within two months, Eric’s work had been exhibited twice at QF, and was capturing people’s attention. “It was amazing for me,” he says, “I never expected this.
“I’d never sold my art; I didn’t even know how much a painting should cost. So I decided to showcase one of my paintings as being available to buy, to see people’s reaction, and there were five people who were particularly interested. I asked them to write their name, their number, and how much they valued the painting at – that’s how I ended up having my first sale at auction.”
While Eric’s main focus may be his job as a security guard at GU-Q – “providing a service to visitors, students, and staff, and making sure they are protected” – his goal is to see one of his paintings being displayed in every building at QF. And just as his reputation and profile as an artist continue to grow, as does his determination to support aspiring artists.
Qatar has given me the chance to explore art, because this is a land of opportunities that appreciates talent.
“Somebody inspired me to start painting, so I also wanted to support others, because I have met so many people who can paint but are afraid of it or not sure about it,” he says. “I met 10 people from 10 different companies who are interested in painting and supplied them with everything they need to do this. They tell me the stories behind their paintings, and I try to help them find an exhibition where they can showcase their work.
“Qatar has given me the chance to explore art, because this is a land of opportunities that appreciates talent. Through being here, I saw another future, and that’s how I have ended up realizing that art really could change my life.”