Why Ukrainians are painting giant murals on Nairobi buildings
For three days, a host of street artists from Kenya and Ukraine have been creating giant murals in Nairobi of Kenyan and Ukrainian flag colours in a show of solidarity against the Russian invasion.
Titled ‘‘The Wall’’, the project began a few weeks ago in Nairobi and was to continue until February 24 to coincide with the first anniversary of the Russia-Ukraine war.
Kenya was represented in the project by Moha Grafix and Eliamin Ink. Moha is known for his ingenious matatu graffiti while Ink is a tattooist and a street artist.
Together with Alina Konyk, Nikita Kravtsov and Andrii Kovtun, the group is creating “Grains of Culture” that is set to push the horizons of the relationship between the two countries.
“Grains of Culture” is an intersection between Ukrainian and Kenyan art that features coffee and wheat, two of the primary export products between the two countries.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and has been shelling parts of the country into ghost cities for a year.
The war has left more than 200,000 soldiers from both sides either dead or wounded, according to the New York Times.
There have also been civilian casualties, with more than 8,000 non-combatants dying since last year, according to data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
The deadly war – and Europe’s first since World War II – has also disrupted global supply chains for grain, oil and machinery that the two antagonists export to the world.
In Kenya, The Wall is facilitated jointly by the Ukrainian Embassy, City Hall and Phoenix House.
The mural has been created on Phoenix House, a multi-storey property along Muindi Bingu Street.
This is the final of five murals that have also been painted in the European cultural cities of Vienna, Berlin, Marseille and Brussels.
Kenya is the first African country to host the mural.
According to the organisers, The Wall symbolises resistance, stability and armour that shields “civilisation from war.”
The project has seen Ukrainian artists such as Nikita Kravtsov and Andrii Kovtun perform in Nairobi.
Another notable name is Ukrainian electronic music duo Tvorchi who will represent their home country in the Eurovision Song Contest later this year.
“Ukraine is dealing with an external demon. The Wall project allows us to discuss the world’s attitude towards Ukraine,” says Katya Taylor, the chief executive officer of Port and curator of The Wall.
Taylor says Kenya and Ukraine have multiple commonalities, including values, goals and rights, and that the artworks will strengthen the economic and diplomatic resilience of the two countries.
“The murals are our response to Russia’s brutal aggression on the cultural front in the war,” says Emine Dzhaparova, Ukraine’s deputy minister for Foreign Affairs.
Ms Dzhaparova describes the invasion as an affront and an attempt to “destroy and eliminate” Ukrainian identity.”
“Russian invaders have closed Ukrainian schools and imposed their language and history [on our people],” she says.
A matatu decoration workshop will also be organised as part of the project that is being carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Usaid, Ukrainian Institute and House of Europe.
Other partners are UN-Women, Unicef and Crimean Platform.
Since the beginning of the war a year ago, Ukraine has been reaching out to its global partners for support.
When Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Kenya was among the countries that condemned the move.
“Kenya is gravely concerned by the announcement made by the Russian Federation to recognise Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine as independent states. In our considered view, this action and announcement breach the territorial integrity of Ukraine,” Ambassador Martin Kimani, Kenya’s Permanent Representative to the United Nation’s Security Council said in February last year.