It’s after 2am and Boniface Mwangi and his crew are ready for action. A portable generator roars into life, a projector balanced on a stack of cardboard boxes clicks on, and a sketch of bald-headed, big-beaked vultures in suits appears on the blank wall of a public toilet on Koinange Street in central Nairobi.
“Let’s start this thing,” says Mwangi. Five men in yellow fluorescent jackets, the kind city council workers wear, pick up spray cans and start tracing the sketch they prepared earlier.
The chemical smell of the paint is nose-ticklingly sharp but the message the young men are spraying is even sharper. The mural depicts members of Kenya’s parliament as vultures, with one carrying a briefcase labelled “stolen loot”. The text reads: “Describe your MP vulture” but the word “MP” has been crossed out with red paint. A list of options is given: thieves, irresponsible, selfish, pathetic, missing in action.
“When guys are going to work, they see this,” Mwangi says, “and they remember, ‘my member of parliament is an idiot, a thug, he stole our land.'” A week ago, the crew spent the night stencilling “vote the vultures out of parliament” (in Swahili) on about 40 city junctions. They painted another mural in the business district on 28 February.
The artists – Uhuru B, Swift, Smokillah, Bankslave and another man who prefers not to be named – work fast, shaking, spraying, surveying. “It’s for the cause – revolution,” says Uhuru B, 26. “We have to wake people’s minds … and a picture is worth a thousand words …If it’s not us, it won’t be done. We’ve got the resources, we’ve got the skills. It’s the now.”
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