Sunday, September 24, 2023

Kenya’s peace graffiti artist

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Solomon Muyundo AKA Solo 7

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MARCO WERMAN: A year and a half ago Kenya suffered an ugly chapter in its history. It was just after the December 2007 presidential election. Two candidates claimed victory. Their respected supporters took to the streets in protest. Then came a wave of ethnic violence. The World’s Andrea Crossan recently visited one of the communities that was a flashpoint for the violence and that’s the Kibera slum in Nairobi. There she met a man who took to the streets with a paint brush.

ANDREA CROSSAN: Walk the streets and alleyways of Kibera and you see the same message everywhere. The words are written in big, block letters with white paint. They say Peace Wanted Alive. And they’re signed or tagged Solo 7.

SOLOMON MUYUNDO: I’m Solomon Muyundo AKA Solo 7.

CROSSAN: Solomon Muyundo is the artist behind Solo 7. Muyundo is a member of Art 4 Peace. The Art 4 Peace studio uses art as a way to foster reconciliation in conflict areas. The group offers community art courses for kids and they paint peace murals and slogans in public spaces. Solomon Muyundo estimates that he’s painted his street art in more than 4000 locations around Kibera – on bridges, fences, buildings.

MUYUNDO: Even I used to write across the road. On trees even in the forest there and I used to also to write on my pets, on my dogs, and they go around they spread the message so that when it’s going to fetch for food no one will think of throwing a stone at it.

CROSSAN: Muyundo began his peace graffiti shortly after the December 2007 elections. He says things changed in Kibera when the results were announced.

MUYUNDO: I saw a gang of youths, ranging from 400 to maybe to 600. All of them carrying weapons like crude weapons, panga, machete, and hammer, a sharp knife and a big one. They were carrying those weapons and coming towards the main road shouting. “No Raila no peace, no Raila no peace.” And then I knew there was something wrong.

CROSSAN: The crowd was shouting, “No Raila no peace” because they believe that the challenger Raila Odinga had won the election even though incumbent Mwai Kibaki claimed victory. Solomon Muyundo said he had to act fast to protect himself from the angry mob.

MUYUNDO: I was really terrified. In fact I wanted to run away but I thought to myself if I could run away maybe one of them may follow me. So I decided to jump in front of them with the bare hands and I just started shouting, “No Raila no peace. No Raila no peace.”

CROSSAN: Muyundo was able to get home safely that night by shouting his support for Odinga. But the experience shook him. Part of Kibera was in flames and the community was caught between the mob and the police. So Muyundo decided to go out and start writing the message Peace Wanted Alive.

MUYUNDO: As in it should be alive active peace because if we attain peace when it’s alright injured or dead that’s not peace. So I decided now I’ll go with the paint and do something. I started Peace Wanted Alive. Then when I mobilized those signs some of the youths told me now Solo we have seen all your messages. We don’t want violence.

CROSSAN: Kibera still bares the scars of the post-election violence. Many of the corrugated metal roof shops and homes sit burned out and empty. The bright white paint of Solo 7’s message decorates the outside of the charred black walls. His words stand as a reminder to Kibera’s residents.

MUYUNDO: They really appreciate what I did and I feel like I’m serving this community and the people recognize me as a peace man. Yeah.

CROSSAN: For The World I’m Andrea Crossan Kibera, Kenya.

WERMAN: You can see some of Solo 7’s artwork at our website. That’s The World dot org. Andrea Crossan’s trip to Kenya was funded by a fellowship form the international reporting project in Washington.

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Rebecca Schneider
Rebecca Schneider
Rebecca Schneider ist eine renommierte Expertin im Bereich des Journalismus. Mit ihrem umfangreichen Wissen und ihrer jahrelangen Erfahrung hat sie bereits zahlreiche Texte verfasst und ist für ihre hohe Qualität und Professionalität bekannt. Dank ihrer Expertise und ihrem Engagement für den Journalismus ist sie eine der gefragtesten Autorinnen in der Branche und hat einen hohen Bekanntheitsgrad erreicht.
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