News / Africa

Kenyan Graffiti Artists Spray for Political, Social Change

Kenya Graffiti Artists Spray for Social Changei
X
August 06, 2014 4:20 PM
Some of Kenya’s graffiti artists have become a voice for social change, using their art to push boundaries and to make statements about the country’s political elite. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Kenya Graffiti Artists Spray for Social Change

Some of Kenya’s graffiti artists have become a voice for social change, using their art to push boundaries and make statements about the country’s political elite.  

Nine years ago, Kevin Esendi dropped out of art school and embraced his first love – graffiti.

Most of his fans and fellow artists now know him by his street name – “Bankslave.”

"Bankslave" has risen to become one of Nairobi’s foremost graffiti artists. He says the art form - which some consider a public nuisance - has evolved in Kenya to become an outlet for political opinion.

“Graffiti is a powerful tool. So we use it anonymously in the streets of Nairobi just to bring social change,” says Esendi, 31. “We get to go out and just paint what we think the society is going to be enlightened on. You know we address the issues that are affecting the community."

Tackle corruption

One common theme is corruption, a chronic problem among Kenyan police and government officials.

Three years ago, Kenyan graffiti artists joined together to make a statement about the country’s elected leaders.

Under cover of darkness, they converged on the capital and spray-painted murals, portraying public officials as vultures, to express their views of the officials as corrupt and unjust.  

Robert Munuku is from "Pawa254," a social organization that brings together creative people from diverse artistic fields.

Munuku says graffiti is an excellent medium to foster ideas about how to hold officials accountable.

"Usually what happens is when someone sees a visual representation of the social issues they go through, they are forced to ask questions about these issues,” Munuku says. “And the first thing that comes to mind is, 'What is my vote doing for me?'  And that can be tied into the leaders and when they see a vulture in the streets they ask, 'What is my leader doing for me?’ ”

Style, technique lessons

For 29-year-old Lawrence William, who goes by the pseudonym “Uhuru B," his graffiti talent led him to begin a class where he shares his expertise on style and technique.

Taking a group of artists through a skill-refining session, ‘Uhuru B’ says he thinks graffiti has the power to change society.

"Graffiti does address social issues, looking back from the past to now. We have really grown and we’ve tackled taboo issues such as corruption, injustice,” Lawrence says. “Graffiti has been able to communicate with the society civically. And, to me, we are unstoppable. We are leading with our creativity. I see we are the future and the future is now."

Graffiti artists agree the key to this art form is anonymity, so that both the artist and viewer can communicate without fear of criticism or reprisal.

But time will tell whether their artwork will translate into social action or change.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More