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where the artists are

I think of how many artists have grown old in this city of ours. How many artists, just like me, have resorted to other careers simply because being an artist is "never enough," as many put it. I still paint either way.

(Tool: | Prompt: a reclusive Kenyan female artist painting a busy cityscape from their single bedroom window)

The city sprawls around me, a labyrinth of memories and unfulfilled aspirations. Nairobi is a canvas of vibrant chaos, where every street corner tells a story, every alleyway whispers secrets, and every building stands as a monument to dreams both realized and abandoned. The sun, relentless in its midday intensity, casts stark shadows on the pavement, and the heat seems to accentuate the city’s pulse.

I walk these streets daily, carrying my art supplies in a worn-out backpack, my heart heavy with the weight of compromise. I pass by familiar faces, some aged by the burden of suppressed creativity, others youthful yet already tainted by the harsh realities of survival. We share silent nods, unspoken acknowledgments of our collective plight.

There was a time when I believed that art could sustain me. Fresh out of university, I was filled with optimism, convinced that my talent would pave the way for a fulfilling life. I set up a small studio in a cramped bedsitter, the walls adorned with canvases bursting with color and emotion. Each stroke of the brush was a defiant act of self-expression, a proclamation that I existed, that I mattered.

But reality, as it often does, intervened. The rent needed to be paid, and art supplies did not come cheap. My friends, fellow dreamers, and creators, slowly drifted into the security of stable jobs. I, too, found myself in an office, surrounded by cubicles and the dull hum of outdated computers. The creative fire within me dimmed, yet never extinguished.

Many evenings, after the monotony of the workday, I'd return to my sanctuary. The house is a mess, with paint tubes and brushes scattered around, half-finished canvases leaning against every available surface. It’s chaotic, but it’s mine. It’s where I shed the corporate mask and let my true self emerge.

One night, as I stand before a blank canvas, I recall the words of an old mentor: "Art is not about being seen; it's about seeing." With those words echoing in my mind, I dip my brush into the vibrant hues of my palette. As the colors blend and flow, I lose myself in the process. The worries and disappointments of life fade away, replaced by a sense of purpose and clarity.

I paint the city as I see it: a mosaic of resilience and despair, beauty, and decay. The bustling markets, the quiet parks, the towering skyscrapers, and the dilapidated shacks—all find their place on my canvas. I paint the people, too—the street vendors, the children playing in the dirt, the elderly woman with her wrinkled hands and soulful eyes.

Hours pass, and I step back to examine my work. The canvas is a riot of color, a testament to the vibrant life that pulses through Nairobi's veins. It’s imperfect, raw, and honest. It’s a reflection of me and countless others who refuse to let their creative spirits be crushed by the demands of survival.

As I clean my brushes and prepare for another restless night, a brief sense of peace washes over me. I may never achieve fame or fortune through my art, but that’s not why I paint. I paint because it’s who I am. I paint because, in a world that often feels devoid of meaning, art is my way of making sense of it all.

In this city of forgotten dreams, I am not alone. There are others like me, scattered across Nairobi, quietly nurturing their creative flames. We are the unseen artists, the silent poets, the invisible dancers. We are the heartbeat of this city, and though our contributions may go unnoticed, they are no less valuable.


Authors note:

Hi, my name shall remain a mystery till the end of time, and it's a pleasure to have you read my stuffs. I’m an artist investigating the potential of generative AI to improve writing and readability and in all my works I use a combination of my writing + ChatGPT #fortheplot.

The writing in Black is everything AI generated and the bits in orange are my edits.

This piece is inspired by an excerpt from writing by Natasha Muhanji "An Ode To Bathroom Sinkholes And Scalding Afternoon Sun"

You can learn more about her on IG @muhanji_/ X @bibliophilicims or email and check out her blog

And you can buy her book along with other short stories by various Kenyan authors here


Here's the prompt I used:

Okay New story! this one is inspired by Natasha Muhanji's "An Ode to Bathroom Sinkholes and Scalding Afternoon Sun". Us the following excerpt to construct a short story. make it engaging, emotive, profound. when I'm done reading it I want to feel like my life has been changed.

"I think of how many artists have grown old in this city of ours. How many artists, just like me, have resorted to other careers simply because being an artist is 'never enough' as many put it. I still paint either way"

Here are alternative AI-generated images:

(Tool: | Prompt: a reclusive Kenyan female artist painting a busy cityscape)

(Tool: | Prompt: a reclusive artist painting a busy cityscape)

Software Analysis: 



I love how well it matches results once you refine the prompts

Why is the default setting a straight white male artists in a western city

Gotta love its attention to the fine details. The look of a penthouse view of Nairobi, the layout of CBD at night

I'm yet to spot any AI hallucinations. Extra thumbs/hands/legs etc.

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