In Summary

  • The highest office in the land wanted him to draw a portrait of the most powerful man in the world — American President Barack Obama.
  • And how did Okello’s contacts found his way to the hallowed grounds of State House? In October last year, Okello made headlines when he drew the portrait of President Kenyatta in military fatigues.
  • When he joined Kenyatta University for his Commerce degree, a desire to craft a business out of his artistic prowess began to take root. Eventually the dream turned into reality.
  • Okello has employed three artists and has started an arts school at his home in Nyawita slums. The school has 15 students.

It is not every day that an artist receives a call from State House. But Mr Collins Okello did in May.

The highest office in the land wanted him to draw a portrait of the most powerful man in the world — American President Barack Obama.

Mr Obama was scheduled to visit Kenya for the Global Entrepreneurship Summit and President Uhuru Kenyatta wanted to make a lasting impression on his American counterpart who has deep roots in Kenya.

Mr Obama would also be the first serving president of the most powerful nation on earth to visit Kenya. Mr Kenyatta, therefore, wanted a gift that would aptly capture the significance of the moment. And who better to actualise that seemingly tall order than the prodigiously talented Mr Okello?

And how did Okello’s contacts found his way to the hallowed grounds of State House? In October last year, Okello made headlines when he drew the portrait of President Kenyatta in military fatigues. The piece of art was soon the hottest thing on social media. This earned him a phone call from State House. His task? To present his drawing to President Kenyatta during his 53rd birthday.

GRAND ENTRY

That ‘powerful’ call set Okello on an epic journey that would lead him to spend two days with Kenya’s chief executive. Mr Okello had made a grand entry to the sanctum of power and brushed shoulders with the high and mighty in the neatly manicured lawns of State House.

“He (President Kenyatta) asked his aides to stay away so as to make me feel comfortable and at home. He would leave me as he went about his daily work and then spend the evenings having tea as he chatted with me,” Okello recalls.

His fascinating rise to stardom is the stuff of a fairy tale. He sold a drawing at Sh20 back in 1998 when he was an eight-year old pupil at Arya Primary School.

Even at that tender age, Okello had known that he wanted to be an artist although how that would pan out going forward was still hazy on his mind.

When he joined Kenyatta University for his Commerce degree, a desire to craft a business out of his artistic prowess began to take root. Eventually the dream turned into reality.

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