What you need to know:
- Jepkemboi, who is self-taught, says she manipulates images by changing their dimensions to convey a humorous message.
- She says her motivation is to cheer people up amid the chaos in the world.
Minicheps, as Catherine Jepkemboi is known online, has been the talk of the town this week.
From Facebook to Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, she has tickled the online community with her manipulated photos that depict the ups and downs of life.
From a woman spading githeri (a meal made up of maize and beans) into a man’s mouth while perched on a plate to another one tearing chicken wings from atop a plate and another riding on a boda-boda rider’s shoulders, hers is a quirky if bizarre form of humour, the work of ingenuity infused into life’s ordinary experiences as we know them.
Refusing to divulge the details of the application or techniques she uses, Jepkemboi, who is self-taught, says she manipulates images by changing their dimensions to convey a humorous message.
The female character feeding a man invokes the idea of “eating life with a big spoon”. Quite literally.
Her motivation? Cheering people up amid the chaos in the world, she says.
“‘I simply imagine life in a different way, motivated by its day-to-day intrigues,” she says.
The mastermind of these visuals is the character in her art. But it’s the pun that accompanies the photos that gives them an irresistible punch.
Online, she is a heroine but also elusive. In real life, she’s a good laugh.
Jepkemboi, which is Nandi for “born at night”, has always wanted to make people laugh. Humour, she says, is her first love. Comedy, though, was out of the question.
Finally, she discovered she could use visuals better than words to create humour.
“This helps me conceptualise the idea before proceeding to take images and to manipulate them for the desired effect,” adds Minicheps.
In 2019, armed with a borrowed camera and a funny idea, she set up Minicheps.
But for two years, her art faced the “blackness of the night”, with many people unable to comprehend the idea.
She narrates: “Whenever I shared the photos with my friends and asked them to share and tag their friends, they would ask me what they meant. It was a disappointing start.”
And a long one.
Getting her work noticed was sticky-slow, she recounts. Yet more frustrations awaited.
“The owner took his camera back, disrupting my work. I had to take a one-year break to regroup.”
Regroup she did, and last year, she was back to work.
Woke up to stardom
This week, the images lit up and broke the internet at the seams, giving her the all-important breakthrough.
After trial and error for two years, a year-long hiatus and her parents’ separation, Jepkemboi’s life was thrown into a spin.
That was until this week when she woke up to stardom.
She says: “I had gone to bed, as usual, only to wake up trending online. People were discussing my art and sharing it.”
On what this sudden fame means to her, Jepkemboi says she isn’t surprised.
“I had hoped that my art would go viral immediately when I started. That didn’t happen. I didn’t expect, however, that people would appreciate my work this much,” she says with a chuckle.
Pursuing art dream
Jepkemboi is married with two children. Her partner’s love of photography complements her work and keeps her dream alive.
She may not have gone past primary school, owing to her mean circumstances in life, but her art makes all and sundry laugh.
The mother of a two-year-old and a six-month-old says raising her family and pursuing her art dream makes for a slippery balancing act.
Along the street of Langas estate in Eldoret town in the morning, you’ll meet her selling doughnuts.
Back at home, she goes behind her computer to create more of her ingenious art, serving up enough humour to Kenyans to take them for the rest of the day.
“I go to bed very late, after I’ve fed the babies. I wake up late to do my production,” she says, adding that she hopes to establish a career out of art “to be able to support my young family”.