The Inspiring Story of Yabish; Former Butcher Putting Kenya on Canvas

At a very young age, Ellam Omwaka Ombula who goes by the artist name Yabish, found himself doodling on books with charcoal, pencils and crayons.

His very first drawing assignment in kindergarten sparked his interest and love for art. The assignment was to draw anything and he has not stopped drawing and sketching to this day.

Having had a humble upbringing, Ellam’s mother was not able to take him through college so he got his first job as a butcher.

“I would paint at night after I came home from work and over the weekends, I would sell the paintings in supermarkets. I was able to sell my very first painting at 1,000 Kenya Shillings and it was not until then that I believed I could be a full time artist.”

Yabish’s first painting when he was going through difficult days trying to put his work out there

“When I started painting, I did not focus on titles like I do now… I just painted.”

Yabish’s first sale gave him the strength to continue being an artist and a few years later, his friend introduced him to an art gallery where he sold his second painting. He immediately quit his full time job as a butcher to focus on his art.

“I would describe my work as hyper-realism inspired by the African Lifestyle.”

“When I found out I was chosen to be in Safaricom’s 2019 calendar, I was extremely happy and grateful that they honored my work and that of other artists in Kenya. Being shortlisted to be part of This is My Kenya campaign is a dream come true for me.”

To be honest I have not flipped the Safaricom 2019 calendar over since March.”

This painting was inspired by the bond created when a mother carries a child on her back. It reminds Yabish of the bond between him and his mother who is the biggest supporter of his work.

“My advice to other artists would be to keep practising and never give up.”

Ellam Omwaka Ombula is among the 36 artists who were chosen to feature in the Safaricom This is my Kenya 2019 #KenyaOnCanvas project . Over the last five years Safaricom has been using its calendar to celebrate the beauty and diversity of Kenya through art and photography and has produced amazing portfolios for local artists whose works are featured in it. This project has not only helped a great deal in marketing the works of the artists now earning from their passion but also celebrate Kenya through the eyes of these artists.

#KenyaOnCanvas through the artists realizes the power of collectively sharing beautiful Kenyan images and how it can change not only the perception of our country but also strengthen its economic presence and empower its citizens with increased tourism. Visual art plays a key role in promoting culture and tourism as it plays a role in maintaining social identity of our various identities groups which is a unique tourist attraction opportunity.

“Each piece of art selected for the calendar tells a Kenyan story,” Sylvia Mulinge, Chief Customer Officer at Safaricom PLC.

There’s an untold pride when you own something that took time to be handcrafted. Artists that put #KenyaOnCanvas have uniquely told the Kenyan story through amazing pieces. Visit  to see how you can get your hands on one of these!

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