A self-taught freelance make-up artist, Kavengi Kitonga is the embodiment of passion and creativity. After completing her Bachelor’s degree in Economics, Kavengi decided to try and make money, her first thought was make-up. In her mind, it was the easiest way to earn money and so she went on YouTube and started teaching herself. “It turns out it wasn’t so easy after all and it requires a lot of thinking,” she confesses. Despite the fact that initially make-up for her was purely as an avenue to earn money, she has since grown to love the art and is still learning new concepts every day.
For Kavengi, being a make-up artist is similar to being like any other artist, the difference being that her canvas is the face and by extension, the body of a person. This outlook is what differentiates her work from others, because it allows her to explore and move away from what she calls, ‘perfection makeup,’ the looking pretty aspect of makeup. As appealing and amazing as ‘perfection makeup’ is, [bctt tweet=”Kavengi’s work borders on chaos and abstraction.”] Although, the concept of abstraction is still relatively new in Kenya, and is confined mainly to doing extreme smokey eye, bright colors and tribal makeup, Kavengi’s work provides a refreshing alternative to the norm.
” As I delve further in my work my boldness [is] defined by using diverse mediums and materials that are not necessarily cosmetic (anything from mud, chalk, charcoal etc),” she adds.
[bctt tweet=”At a more personal level, her make-up style is a reflection of her outlook on life.”] Kavengi is driven by living courageously and her belief that to succeed in life and living means to be bold, to push limits and to be defiant. “My work is also motivated by the fact that we need to broaden the definition of the creative space, especially here in Kenya, to incorporate diverse renditions of beauty,” she explains.
This viewpoint probably explains why Kavengi’s make-up style is geared towards abstract haute couture. Her love for her style stems from the shock value, diversity and absence of perfection that it personifies. She further capitalizes on her abstract and vague style by casting women in very outrageous makeup looks, because she believes that women should be perceived as tenacious and ruthless in chasing their dreams, not just pretty faces.
“I get completely disinterested in shoots that focus on nudity and seduction, it’s the cliché to me or the lazy way out. Let us say am also driven by a feminist agenda, women should be badass and commandeers,” she affirms.
Kavengi officially started as a makeup artist in 2012. Her first makeup gig was for a fashion event where she did the makeup for the poster advertising the event. Since then, she has worked on many other projects and collaborated with many individuals. One of her favorite projects include one which she collaborated with photographer Osborne Macharia and Anne Mpinga, Kipusa’s Founder and Designer on Anne’s ‘She is Nairobi’ campaign. The ‘She is Nairobi’ campaign is an art collection celebrating phenomenal women of Nairobi.
“I enjoy projects that are oriented towards [abstract] makeup. As such, I enjoy my own personal projects, which allow me to fully express my artistic vision, ” she admits.
Throughout her work, her top make-up tools are a good quality black khol pencil, red lipstick, pigmented eye shadows, jet (black/purple) mascara and face paints. Additionally, as she works, she looks up to makeup artists like self-taught British make-up artist Pat Mcgrath, Bristol born Val Garland and Belgian make-up artist Peter Philips. “I love Pat Mcgrath when it comes to haute couture [and] Val Garland’s work perfectly captures my idea of chaos and asymmetry,” she gushes. Locally, Kavengi admires makeup artists Sinnitta Owor, Muthoni Njoba and Corrine Muthoni.
In general, Kavengi is multi-dimensional, a person who has made peace with the idea that there many paths to take in life. Even though her makeup style is not mainstream, she enjoys its craziness and dynamism. [bctt tweet=”Essentially, Kavengi is a dreamer.”]
“The best part of being a makeup artist is that no day is the same especially in my sort of style,” she says.
Catch more on Kavengi’s view on being a makeup artist, especially in Kenya in part two of this interview.
Images sourced and subject to Copyright © Kavengi Kitonga ©Shifteye Photography
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