Mombasa Murals

Artist: Graffiti Girls
Location: City Centre, Mombasa, Kenya
Year: 2021

The Graffiti Girls Kenya group is dedicated to empowering women, allowing them to express themselves and address the issues affecting them and their communities through the medium of graffiti mural art. Most of their projects to date have manifested as public-facing graffiti murals, exploring a range of social issues impacting women, such as women's presence and role in leadership, domestic violence, and sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV). Additionally, their work sheds light on contemporary urban culture and contributes to the conversation about climate change.Mombasa, Kenya's oldest and second-largest city, boasts the busiest port in East Africa, playing a vital role in the region's economy and trade. Tourism is a significant economic contributor to the city. The creative sector primarily caters to the tourism market, and until recently, limited platforms existed to facilitate programs and opportunities for art's role in critical discourse.The Mombasa Mural, initiated and executed in June 2021, was directed by the Graffiti Girls Kenya, providing a platform for women to address social issues through graffiti murals and painting. Female participants within the Mombasa community actively contributed to this mural, emphasizing the agency, knowledge, and skills present within the host community. The leadership, passion, and skill demonstrated by the Graffiti Girls Kenya members were exemplary. The mural's subject, theme, and colors transformed it into a captivating source of knowledge, highlighting the continued influential role played by women in shaping and nurturing the community's positive identity.

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The creation of the Mombasa mural began with a one-day workshop and mural painting event called 'Girls and Graffiti' at the Alliance Française in June 2021. Participants were selected through an open call process, and they included artists from the Graffiti Girls community and women without any prior art background who were eager to learn, explore and express themselves through this medium.The primary objectives of the workshop, leading up to the mural painting, were as follows:1. To nurture and expand the space and opportunities available to women artists and creatives in the realm of visual art, with a specific emphasis on creating public-facing Graffiti murals.2. To empower individuals, especially women and provide them with agency by addressing social issues through this artistic medium.3. To produce a piece of visual art that would be accessible to the public.4.To use the visual art medium to share and educate the community about perspectives and ideas related to the role of women and women in leadership.5.To establish a space in the public sphere that embodies beauty, knowledge, and reflection.These objectives also align with the guiding principles of the Graffiti Girl community and its various initiatives.The project brought together approximately twenty participants of all ages who collaborated in the conceptualization, design, and realization of the final wall mural. The creation of the Mombasa mural spanned two days. The Graffiti and mural painting process was organized so that experienced artists and members of the Graffiti Girls group established the overall layout, as determined during the workshop. They then served as mentors and guides, offering assistance with painting and coloring to those who were new to the technique or not fully acquainted with it. This approach transformed the execution of the mural into a space for the sharing and exchange of skills and perspectives.The Mombasa Mural received support and goodwill from the County Government of Mombasa, further emphasizing the importance and impact of this community-driven art project.

The Mombasa Mural by Graffiti stands as a recent addition to a burgeoning trend in mural graffiti wall expressions, serving as a platform for addressing and expressing predominantly social, and occasionally political, perspectives and thoughts. The visual arts scene in this coastal city so far lacks integration, and creative expressions like the Mombasa Mural by the Graffiti girls bring a breath of fresh air. These murals are a much needed contribution to ongoing efforts and initiatives aimed at bringing the arts closer to and more accessible for the local community of this coastal city.In this region, artists, creative practitioners, and their creations occupy a peripheral space in terms of visibility, relatability and acceptance within their community. The initiative undertaken by the Graffiti girls and the participants of the mural workshop is truly noteworthy, as it signifies a significant step toward enhancing the visibility of art and the medium of creativity, particularly in public spaces. The Mombasa Mural stretches along a perimeter wall that faces a bustling street, making it easily visible to both pedestrians and vehicular traffic.This Mombasa mural, along with many of the other public-facing murals created by the Graffiti girls, is part of a growing movement throughout Kenya. In 2021, the Kenyan government introduced a stimulus grant to alleviate the economic hardships imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic on the creative sector. The Graffiti Mural emerged as a prominent medium for expressing issues and disseminating information on civic and health advocacy and education. Through the murals they have realized, the Graffiti girls are an integral part of this movement, utilizing the compelling scale and spectacle of public-facing murals to raise awareness about social issues, infuse public spaces with color and vibrancy, and foster a sense of communal ownership by bringing people and visibility to these public spaces.As a group, Graffiti Girls Kenya is to be applauded for fostering initiatives that build community and this clear by the continued opens calls for grassroot and community participation that precede their Graffiti Mural projects.

Progress Agency