Lots of people admire street art when they visit a new town. But few will have seen anything as huge as Wise Two’s mural on the side of the ibis Styles-Nairobi Westlands hotel. It’s the biggest piece of graffiti in East and Central Africa, and it’s beautiful.
Nairobi loves graffiti and graffiti loves Nairobi. In fact, the two go so well together that even the capital’s public transport vehicles are adorned with the stuff. And now the city features one of the largest pieces of street art the continent has ever seen, courtesy of the ibis Styles-Nairobi Westlands hotel, which turned a chunk of its façade into a giant backdrop for Kenyan street artist Wise Two. The graffiti star has painted walls all over the world, and participated in numerous community youth aid projects, so with his work here, Ibis Styles-Nairobi Westlands wanted it to both welcome their guests and speak to the wider community by being visible when you’re walking or driving past.
Nairobi’s graffiti scene is supportive of its members, so artists always invite fellow painters to join in on commissions. For the ibis job, Wise Two worked with his friend Kerosh, another wiz-kid known for his cutting-edge work and community projects. It took them three weeks to paint the behemoth you see today, and the result is breathtaking. Vibrant, complex masks jump out from bright, penetrating blocks of colour to evoke both traditional tribal and contemporary forms. Set on the front and back of the hotel building, they represent the beauty and diversity of the Kenyan people.
African street art, from Nairobi to Casablanca
The ibis Styles-Nairobi Westlands’s tower is the first in the country to turn its façade into a monumental painting. But elsewhere in Africa, graffiti is making waves too. Take Casablanca in Morocco: For the fifth consecutive year, the street art festival Sbagha Bagha has commissioned four famous street artists to decorate the sides of buildings and turn the town—quite literally—into one giant, open-air art gallery.
Street art is finally being given the legitimacy it deserves, and Africa, it seems, is the perfect canvas.