AwaaZ interviewed Kerosh Kiruri - one of the founders of the ‘Street Diaries’ project.

Why the Graffiti Festival?

The Graffiti Festival is really Part 1 of the ‘Street Diaries’ project as conceived by KEROSH KIRURI and NANCY CHELA.  The idea was conceived two years ago in different forms which evolved over time to what then became street diaries.

Street diaries is an interactive street art, graffiti festival and gallery show organized and executed by street artists. Volume 1 was a pilot project meant to achieve the following aims:

  • To bring artists together and by capitalizing on their individual strengths, create a package of experience to be enjoyed by the public.
  • To demystify street art and graffiti by encouraging the public to participate in creating the artworks and allow people to ask many questions about this alternative, liberal art form.
  • To show the public how street artists make money which is why it is important to have the gallery show.
  • To create mentorship opportunities between artists and interested members of the public.

Why did the Dust Depot Railway Museum Gallery support this venture?

At some point in 2015 the artists heard that Patrick Mukabi had moved his studio to the Railways Museum ‘Dust Depo’ studio and started visiting this generous man’s space. Artists who have interacted with him knew how open-minded and big-hearted the man was. Even prior to visiting the ‘Dust Depo’ Kerosh had a strong feeling that wherever Mukabi would be located, he would be open to allow street artists to paint from his studio.

My first visit to the studio was in December 2015 when Mukabi held a party for artists. Walking through the gate the first thing I saw was the long stretch of walls leading to Mukabi’s studio. All my thoughts of doing a street art event came rushing through my mind and a few days after the party I went back to ask for the possibility of having the event there. True to his nature, Mukabi offered more support than asked. In less than a week’s time the artists went back and set event dates. Mukabi promised to talk to the railways museum curator which he did. By this time he had already offered his studio space for the gallery show.

Within a week’s time I met Mr Barasa, the railways museum’s curator, and explained that the event would be self-sponsored and artists did not have extra money to pay for the venue like other events do. Instead we offered to do a mural for the museum and he agreed. He immediately gave us a theme and showed a wall on which we could do it. After 3 days we started painting the mural which took us a week to complete and he was happy with it. By this time it was a month to our event and we started the social media campaigns and resource mobilization.

We thank the railways museum for supporting art and artists in general, especially by permanently hosting some in their space and warmly welcoming us to also share their space.

Ali Mazrui
Damien Marley
Malcolm X
Wangari Maathai
Maya Angelou
Thomas Sankara
Patrice Lumumba

What are the challenges to Graffiti in Kenya?

  • The hypocrisy of the Kenyan public in that they only want to see what they understand or only what they like,  yet there is more to life than that and artists would like to express it (society doesn't want to be shown the skeletons in their closets). 
  • People think that artists should not be paid for their work.
  • The Artist want to be as expressive and creative as they can be, but society is very closed to examination of the issues that real matter. Everyone has been socialized to conform and avoid wading into untested waters.

Do the artists manage to make a living from Graffiti?

Artists are making a living from graffiti. It's a question of creativity and mastery- when you have these you can prosper in anything.

How would you compare the standards of Graffiti in Kenya to that in the rest of the world?

Everyone can/should be authentic thus it is hard to compare with other parts of the world. What I know is that we have brilliant artists in Kenya and part of the reason is because of the originality and authenticity.

How can the Government and corporates support Graffiti?

Government and corporates can help the graffiti trade by educating themselves more about this vibrant and important aspect of artistry.

Please comment on the various themes this festival has covered. I in particular loved the history of the Railway piece…

The graffiti festival had no theme, it was just everyone having the freedom to express themselves whichever way they wished.

What next for the Graffiti festival? Will it be an annual event and how can you popularize it for a greater impact?

The graffiti festival is working with like-minded individuals and organizations to have it as often as reasonably possible. The spirit of the festival will attract the appropriate audiences and platforms. We are open to learning from all available sources and use that as a resource for the rest of the events.

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