Kenya: art movement to give Nairobi a facelift through all the murals

The mission of the Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH) is to give a facelift to the city of Nairobi. Together with local artists, Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS), Safer Nairobi Initiative and GoDown Arts Center, TICAH recently launched an art movement that will use colorful murals to beautify the city. The movement is called #ALAAA! and its main objective is to offer the residents of Nairobi a portion of “talking walls” in addition to highlighting the dynamism and creativity of the city.

Why #ALAAA !? According to TICAH, this is the sound of astonishment people will make when they cast their eyes on the amazing works of art around the city. The movement has already produced a mural on the outer wall of Moi Avenue elementary school, on the roundabout side of the Globe Cinema. The motif of the artwork on the wall is the vitality of the streets of Nairobi. It features paintings by Allan ‘Think’ Kioko, Michael Nyerere, Solomon, ‘Solo’ Luvai, Rose Ahono, Collins Oduor, Leevans Linyerere and Wilson Matunda.

After the boundary wall of Moi Avenue Elementary School, the movement has three more sites on hold. Muthurwa will be the first of them. In the meantime, the curatorial team is actively researching new locations and wooing more artists to jump on the bandwagon.

“The aspirations of the movement are aligned with the mandate of the Safer Nairobi Initiative to work with young people, connect with the public and promote crime prevention through environmental design by activating open public spaces,” it said. Humphrey Otieno, the Safer Nairobi Initiative Liaison Officer, says of the movement.

Otieno recognizes that a good number of young people are in the arts sector and have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. He considers the #ALAAA! art movement as a bridge between young artists and the Nairobi County government.

“We take a participatory approach to tactical town planning. Our goal is to catalyze inclusiveness and listen to the voices of our communities. I proposed this idea to the board of governors and it warmed up to it. The council wants artists to create more murals. “

Otieno observes that there are concrete walls all over Nairobi. Around homes, parks, schools and hotels. He is nonetheless concerned that in addition to physically and figuratively separating communities, the walls are not inspiring.

City full of murals

“When you drive around Nairobi and see only walls, you have no idea of ​​the vibrancy, creativity and magic of the city and its people who are beyond the walls,” explains Otieno.

The partners in the art movement have a vision to create a city full of murals that explore artistic experimentation and expression that connect with people’s hearts. The city she envisions is one in which artists and the public feel they are part of an initiative that will positively change their environment. The movement’s long-term plan is to make Nairobi a city internationally known for its magnificent murals and public art.

Public art is not a new genre in Kenya. The country has many sculptures in the streets, murals in informal settlements and our street poets brave our tropical evenings to showcase their art. The genre is alive and well. He’s always been here. What is urgent is a clear public art policy that will create a public art fund and save the genre from oblivion.

Through clarity of policy, public art will fulfill its ideal function – to preserve our public history, evolving cultures and collective memory. An economically self-sustaining art industry will ensure a continuous and sustained “birth” of artists who respond artistically to the events of their time. These artists will share their inner vision with the outside world. They will chronicle the public experiences of their generation.

The country should deviate from what has hitherto been the norm – confining our art to museums. Instead, we should find a good company in the society of other cities like Oslo, Norway, Chicago, United States, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Tel Aviv, Israel, Melbourne and Australia, among others. These are cities whose streets are dotted with beautiful and stimulating works of art.

TICAH’s interest in public art is inspired by its belief in the connection between holistic health and culture. According to trust, culture shapes everything and is the hallmark of a healthy community. TICAH believes that human beings experience good health in their body, mind, relationships, households and communities. Their definition of health takes into account the fact that the values, opportunities for expression and creation of a people are profoundly predictive of their ability to establish just and equitable societies.

You can follow TICAH’s work on their website at www.ticahealth.org, on Instagram at DreamKona.Ke or on Facebook at DreamKona.

Christopher S. Washington