As an artist, Njeri Kinuthia draws ample creative inspiration from her life. Having grown up in a small village in rural Kenya, the  student is no stranger to gender inequality. Seeing how women were treated caused her passion for women鈥檚 rights to blossom at a young age. Today, she expresses her feminist beliefs through her work, empowering women while raising awareness of social issues to advocate for change.

Kinuthia鈥檚 art explores various subjects, from the traditional Kenyan custom of paying a bride price to the suppression of women鈥檚 voices in patriarchal societies. Her work confronts the institutionalized cultural norms that influence women鈥檚 identity and sexuality. Utilizing self-portraiture, her art serves as a mirror, reflecting her own experiences and self-perception. Her work is a compelling invitation to challenge cultural boundaries and redefine the role of women in society.

Drawing, painting, soft sculpture, installation and fiber arts are just a few of the mediums Kinuthia uses to communicate these concepts. The multidisciplinary artist works with a variety of materials, ranging from charcoal and oil paints to pastels and bleach. Her compositions often depict female figures with tightly woven fabrics wrapped around their head and face, evoking feelings of suffocation to symbolize women鈥檚 oppression. Her signature style incorporates the use of vibrant textiles shipped to her by her mother from her hometown in Kenya. She previously earned her bachelor鈥檚 degree in fashion design and marketing and uses that expertise to design intricate garments for her pieces, such as elaborate headdresses and grandiose skirts emerging from a canvas.

Njeri Kinuthia's grad cap features a Pegasus with an artistic design
Njeri Kinuthia’s grad cap, which was designed by her. (Photo byIsabella Billones)

Through her art, Kinuthia pays tribute to her heritage while challenging the constraints society imposes upon women 鈥 delivering a powerful message.

鈥淏eing able to express myself as an artist is what drew me to pursue it as a career,鈥 she says. 鈥淚 get to comment on social issues and spark conversations through my work.鈥

She says she aims to explore the relationship between cultural traditions and personal identity while inspiring her audience to question, confront and ultimately defy the limitations imposed upon them by society. The significance of her work transcends borders, allowing women to connect to her creations on a personal level.

Kinuthia came to the U.S. in 2021 to attend UCF on the prestigious 鈥 an award she received in recognition of her immense artistic talent. Though moving to the U.S. and leaving her family behind was difficult, she says it was worth it and feels fortunate for the opportunities it has afforded her.

鈥淭he vibrant diversity at UCF greatly appealed to me as an international student,鈥 Kinuthia says. 鈥淎dditionally, the School of Visual Arts and Design has an exceptional MFA program, and its graduates consistently achieve notable success in their artistic careers.鈥

Since moving to Central Florida, Kinuthia has gained significant notoriety for her unique artistic style. Her work has been showcased in various galleries around Orlando and abroad. Most recently, she was one of only ten artists in the state nominated for the and will have her art displayed at the museum鈥檚 signature exhibition in May. Last year, she achieved several honors for her artwork. She was awarded the 2023 脡clat Law Prize, which included a monetary award and an exhibition of her work at the firm鈥檚 gallery. Additionally, she received the 2023 United Arts Public Art Award, was featured in Artistry Magazine, and had a solo show at Snap! Gallery. She also participated in a prestigious art competition held annually in South Carolina called ArtFields and was honored as the Outstanding Artist at the Platform Showcase hosted by the Orlando Museum of Art.

At UCF, Kinuthia has received numerous accolades as well. This year, she was the first recipient of the and was recognized during Founders鈥 Day. She was also a Joust New Venture Competition finalist and joint runner-up for the Award for Excellence by a Graduate Student Researcher. In 2023, she was selected as a finalist and was a finalist in the Innovation in Arts Competition. She credits the university resources with helping her prepare for her dream career, including the availability of writing assistance, workshops, and the generous studio space provided to her in the Central Florida Research Park.

Njeri Kinuthia wears a grad cap while standing in the Reflecting Pond
Njeri Kinuthia poses for a graduation photo in the Reflecting Pond (Photo by Isabella Billones)

In addition to her art, Kinuthia is passionate about helping others cultivate their creative abilities. Her experience teaching 2-D Design and Painting as a graduate assistant at UCF led her to fall in love with teaching. She is also actively engaged in the local community and shares her knowledge through her involvement in organizations like the Women’s Caucus for Art, both at the Florida and national chapters and the Orlando Museum of Art鈥檚 Council of 101. She is driven by the need for social reform and seeks to start important conversations that will shift people鈥檚 perspectives about gender inequality.

After graduating, Kinuthia plans to become an educator and continue creating art while spreading awareness of women鈥檚 issues through her work. She advises others to remain true to themselves and pursue their passions to the fullest.