Afrofuturist Artist Cyrus Kabiru Preserves the Memory of ‘Black Mamba’ Bikes on the Wane in Kenya

“The bikes need to have a story behind them.”

Little did we know that one of Africa’s leading Afrofuturists Cyrus Kabiru, best known for his tricked out “C-Stunner” specs fashioned from recyclable scraps collected around Nairobi, has another project that he’s been keeping under the radar.

According to Quartz Africa, Kabiru is making it his mission to preserve the memory of Africa’s "Black Mamba" bicycles. These classic roadsters, originating in India and named for their creeping approach on the horizon much like the venomous snake, have been on the decline as urbanization on the continent has made cars and motorbikes preferable modes of transportation.

Cyrus Kabiru Black Mamba bike via Quartz Africa

Still in what he considers the initial stages although the undertaking has been in the works for two years, the Kenyan breakout artist recognized at Quartz Africa’s Innovators Summit this week, has assembled 15 models of the two-wheelers from used bike parts and other discarded materials. Kabiru  exhibited documentary The End of Black Mamba at Smac Gallery in Cape Town last year.

Kabiru, filled with nostalgia for his father’s Black Mamba that he would wheel from door-to-door growing up in his bustling Nairobi slum as well as his grandfather’s untouchable model, is also collecting stories from family and others who share his fondness for Africa’s waning cultural fixture.

“I always say we here in Kenya never had visual art. We used to tell a story instead,” Kabiru says. “Now, I’m trying to make a story with an object. The bikes need to have a story behind them.”

Have a look at more of Kabiru’s far-out creations below, and be sure to watch the trailer for his documentary about the Black Mamba, above.

Cyrus Kabiru Black Mamba bike via Quartz Africa

Cyrus Kabiru Black Mamba bike via Quartz Africa

Cyrus Kabiru Black Mamba bike via Quartz Africa

Cyrus Kabiru Black Mamba bike via Quartz Africa

Cyrus Kabiru Black Mamba bike via Quartz Africa


A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox


Adekunle Gold Is Living His Best Life

We speak to the Nigerian star about how marriage and fatherhood have led him to find both newfound happiness and newfound freedom as an artist.