Art

Tums, the sculptor finally gets his moment to shine

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A Steel swordfish sculpture by Tums Yeshim who has a workshop at Kitengela Glass House in Nairobi. PHOTO | POOL

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Summary

  • Tums Yeshim is an unassuming Kenyan artist who is finally getting the recognition he deserves.
  • Tums has had several shows with Carol since then, one at Nairobi’s RaMoMa at Rahimtulla House, another at Libra House.
  • Recently, Tum’s mobile metal and glass ‘Paradise Chicken’ was spotted on Instagram in a short video taken at One Off Gallery that fairly projects the uncannily agile ability of a wire and glass sculpture to move as if on its own or by magic.

Tums Yeshim is an unassuming Kenyan artist who is finally getting the recognition he deserves.

“Tums is a genius,” says Carol Lees, the One Off gallerist who has been among the few keen supporters of this multi-talented artist since the 1990s when his metal sculptures and other intricate pieces became the content of her very first art exhibition at Serendipity Gallery back in the 20th century.

Tums has had several shows with Carol since then, one at Nairobi’s RaMoMa at Rahimtulla House, another at Libra House.

Recently, Tum’s mobile metal and glass ‘Paradise Chicken’ was spotted on Instagram in a short video taken at One Off Gallery that fairly projects the uncannily agile ability of a wire and glass sculpture to move as if on its own or by magic.

Yet Tums is no alchemist or wizard. He does not even consider himself to be an artist. “I’m more of a maker of things,” he tells BDLife.

Speaking from his home base at Kitengela Glass where his studio is filled with all sorts of mind-boggling ‘things’, Tums describes his current works as ‘trinkets’ in his typically self-effacing style.

Yet it is those so-called trinkets and things that Carol recently saw when she visited Tums at his studio-workshop and instantly offered him another solo exhibition later this year.


“I consider Tums the best sculptor in East Africa. Why? Because of the ingenuity, originality, and inventiveness of his art,” she says. “And the quality of his workmanship is so finely tuned and finished,” she adds.

Having been born in Cyprus but moved with his family to Kenya when he was a year old, Tums grew up outside Nakuru “in the bush.”

He went to town to study at the Duke of York (now Lenana School) and then off to the UK for university. But he is always come back to Kenya and filled his workshops with his intricate ‘trinkets’ and things.

“I always considered making things a hobby until Carol suggested my first show,” says Tums.

Yet as easy as he makes it sound, he admits much of his art requires a background in physics and possibly calculus.

Currently, he claims he does not have much in his workshop to see. Yet he will be prepared for the October exhibition Carol has planned for him. What was there was enough to wow the gallerist, including the Paradise Chicken with its colourful glass and wire flying feathers.

Tums says there is nothing magical about the way the feathers 'fly.' “There’s a tiny electric engine at the base of the bird,” he reveals.

“Not all my pieces are mobile,” says Tums who adds that each mobile sculpture takes so much time. There is so much precision and mathematical calculation involved in creating these delicate and carefully calibrated pieces, he would never have time to make more than two or three pieces in a year.

He currently has many more sculptures, some as small as his tiny copper box which is just an inch across the top but covered in all sorts of minute symbols.

Other pieces are bigger, like his 12-inch carved wooden egg which contains a four-inch crystal ball'. Asked if there was any special significance about the two objects and their bonding, Tums says people can read into them whatever meaning they wish. “To me, I simply see them as two perfect forms,” he says.

There are many more so-called trinkets in Tums’ studio workshop, metallic lizards and birds as well as, mild steel, copper, and glass sailboat, things one may have an opportunity if they get to One Off later this year.