I wanted to observe Armando and discover more about his magic world since the first day I walked across the garden of White Elephant, the ‘centre of creativity’ that he founded. White Elephant is a place surrounded by an aura of mystery: a bit decadent, sloppy at times but for these reasons, incredibly fascinating. Immersed in nature, two steps from the Malindian beach on the Kenyan coast, while walking through the garden all senses are awakened. Frangipani flowers hit your nose, there is the sound of animals that are hidden somewhere on the trees, and there is Armando’s artworks, now and then, here and there, placed almost randomly, still perfectly integrated into nature. While walking you will encounter a huge elephant, or maybe one of his beloved horses or really, anything. Indeed Armando’s art is limitless; he continues experimenting with materials, practices, subjects, communicating and interpreting the African spirit with a very strong voice and a versatile approach.
Armando is many things, too complicated and undefinable to limit him in this post. When I first approached him to ask him whether he wanted to be my first portrait, he invited me to go to his house and studio on the following morning. He just woke up and was having breakfast. He started talking to me, telling me about him with a confidence that I was not expecting by an artist of his relevance to a young girl like me. It’s hard to believe all his stories, but they are so fascinating that I love listening to them because Armando is a fascinating object of art himself. From the stories of his baobab, to his dreams, his relationship with Baba, his friends, his misadventures, to the spirits that guide his life, Armando expresses all his beliefs, energy and reflections in his works.
Sculptor, painter and architect, based on the belief that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” Armando forges recycled materials into artwork of a unique beauty. Highly inspired by the African culture, Armando is working on multiple projects that aim to teach African people how to take advantage of their prime materials to expand their art practices. Indeed, in addition to his artistic production, Tanzini established ‘Do Not Forget Africa’, a foundation created to increase public sensibility on both social and cultural issues in the continent, winning the UNESCO prize in 2000.
His Kenyan house embodies his spirit, his thought, his lifestyle, his past and the construction of future projects. Projects and ideas based on the belief that “Made in Africa is ready to cross the borders of the continent to implement their revenge on an international level ”
I willl always be thankful to Armando for opening the doors of his world to me even before knowing me, for being a constant source of inspiration, for he was the first one I portrayed for this project, and specially, for believing in me with an incredible enthusiasm.