Graffiti Artists Re-imagine Nairobi City Public Spaces Through Art

Graffiti Artists Re-imagine Nairobi City Public Spaces Through Art

Graffiti artists have joined hands to beautify the streets of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. 

With every brushstroke, the over 40 artists re-imagined the Nairobi city’s spaces. It all begun at Kenyatta Avenue where they transformed the Nairobi County Government’s green and yellow garbage bins, flower pots, benches, and pedestrian crossings a contextual identity realized with beautifully executed artwork.

The initiative dubbed #MyMarkMyCity aims to make Nairobi residents and visitors enjoy the city.

“The idea is to beautify the streets of the city, with graffiti artists and volunteer support crews using carefully conceptualized culturally relevant artwork to give dustbins, flower pots, benches, and pedestrian crossings a contextual identity realized though art and colour,” said Kenyan poet Mufasa (Ken Kibet) one of the organizers.

Mufasa says it is a step to reclaiming Nairobi city, “To have a better city for people to enjoy their public spaces; People to enjoy walking in the city. To make people care about the city when it comes to making it clean,” he says.

Ian, a creative director, and event manager #MyMarkMyCity, says they want to put the city at a place where people look at it differently. “Some of the artwork we are doing is not for ourselves. It is for the future we envision for ourselves.”

“The whole point of this exercise is to get the inhabitants of this city to take up ownership of their own city. So they can be able to beautify it, make sure we come up with sustainable waste management solutions, beautiful roads.”

The initiative received positive sentiments from various people.

Scheaffer Okore, the vice-chairperson of Ukweli Party and Advisory Board member at Gates Foundation’s Goalkeepers, tweeted, “I’m so glad to see #MyMarkMyCity bring to life a vision I had for making Nairobi beautiful. To everyone who came and painted, thank you for making #MyCityBeautiful.”

Sam Gichuru, Founder & chief executive of Nailab, one of Kenya’s leading business incubators also tweeted, “This is beautiful, art is powerful, artists wield the power of the creator. #MyMarkMyCity.”

Stel Cheboi. Writer & Storyteller said, “Such a worthy course, for all those who volunteered to support and take part, feel appreciated. I salute and celebrate you all #MyMarkMyCity.”

According to the UN-Habitat, Sustainable Development Goals number 11 calls for a clear vision of cities and human settlements of the future expected to be inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.

“Public spaces contribute to defining the cultural, social, economic, and political functions of cities. They continue to be the first element to mark the status of a place from a chaotic and unplanned settlement to a well-established town or city,” UN-Habitat’s Global Public Space Toolkit From Global Principles to Local Policies and Practice.

“Public spaces are a vital ingredient of successful cities. They help build a sense of community, civic identity, and culture. Public spaces facilitate social capital, economic development, and community revitalisation.

Having access to public spaces does not only improve the quality of life but is also a first step toward civic empowerment and greater access to institutional and political spaces.”

UN-Habitat promotes five Principles to foster sustainable urban development supported by: a vibrant street life, walkability, and affordability.

A vibrant street life: Supporting and promoting street life by enabling a variety of activities, conducive frontage and street width, and reducing the presence and role of private transport.

Walkability: Promoting walkability as a key measure to bring people into the public space, reduce congestion and boost local economy and interactions.

Affordability: Supporting affordability of transactions and economic activities, as well as services and housing, by promoting proximity and reducing costs for a diverse group of users.