Arts + Culture
WiseTwo, Djerbahood mural. Courtesy of the artist.

This Kenyan Street Artist Is A Global Star

WiseTwo travels the world painting murals inspired by his Kenyan upbringing.

Kid 1: Hio Ni nini (What is that?)

WiseTwo: Ni Father Christmas (It's Father Christmas)

Kid 2: Hapana! Huyo ni sheta! (No! That's satan!)


The above conversation is taking place at Maringo Estate in Eastlands Nairobi. Graffiti artists WiseTwo and Smoki La are working on a wall when two kids fresh from school approach to ask what they are doing. The children in Marish (as the locals call Maringo) are not shy, they ask quick-fire questions in Sheng-laced Kiswahili and shorten their names as if to add to the aesthetic of living in one of Nairobi's oldest estates.

WiseTwo, who grew up on the other side of town, is here thanks to Smoki—their collaborative effort is the fruit of a close to ten-year friendship borne of spray cans and bare walls. For WiseTwo, an opportunity to paint a wall in Nairobi's Eastlands is one he cannot afford to pass up.

The graffiti art community in Nairobi is small but growing, everyone knows each other and any time one of the artists gets commissioned to paint a huge mural they call up a few others to help out. On this day WiseTwo and Smoki are painting for the fun of it. There is no client brief so they are free to exercise their artistic freedom.

“This is where Smoki La lives so it is much easier to get a wall. He knows the area, he knows the neighbourhood, he knows all the people here. It's away from the CBD which is cool because there is less pressure of being arrested or asked many questions."

Mash, a rapper born and raised in Maringo and a longtime friend of Smoki, provides water and an old ladder. He hopes to use the wall in his new video and keeps watch as the artists get to work.

WiseTwi, SAVA Mural, Toronto, Canada. Courtesy of the artist.
WiseTwo began painting at the age of seven. He has a degree in International Relations but is more likely to be found painting African masks at international street art festivals than writing reports for an NGO.

And for good reason. His art has seen him collect fans and followers from across the world and the opportunity to spray walls from Brooklyn to Vancouver. His most recent show was at the Gallery Itenarrance in Paris last year.

“It was my first solo show. I like that whole idea of expressing myself coming from a different continent. Being able to work at the gallery opened the horizon and expanded the artistic level of what I can produce," he says.

Hemp+WiseTwo Mural in Maringo estate Eastlands, Nairobi, Kenya. Courtesy of the artist.
Born and raised in Nairobi, Wise Two's work is influenced by African culture with a nod to Egyptian hieroglyphs and his Indian heritage, which he expresses through his pattern work. Together with other Kenyan graffiti artists he has been involved in social justice street art campaigns such as The Kibera Peace Train during the run-up to the elections in 2013.

Despite his apparent success, WiseTwo feels that African street artists are still very underrepresented when it comes to international street art festivals and media.

“There is a lot that's happening in not only South Africa, but also in Tunisia and right here in Nairobi. There is not much coverage of it but something cool is happening in the African continent."

As he and Smoki La add the finishing touches to their piece, one of the kids hanging around asks for an empty can, he shakes it and walks away smiling.

To view WiseTwo's work visit theartofwisetwo.com.

WiseTwo, Complicated like Hieroglyphics
WiseTwo, Resilience of the Soul mural, Rochester, New York. Courtesy of the artist.
WiseTwo, Omnipresence, Paris solo show. Courtesy of the artist.
WiseTwo, Deeply Rooted, Paris solo show. Courtesy of the artist.
WiseTwo, Spiritual Ego, Paris solo show. Courtesy of the artist.
WiseTwo, Memorize the Sun, Paris solo show. Courtesy of the artist.
Naliaka Wafula Imende is a writer, journalist and culture enthusiast based in Nairobi. Follow her writing at binti.me and Twitter at @nalikali.
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Photo by NurPhoto via Getty Images.

A Year After #EndSARS, Nigerian Youth Maintain That Nothing Has Changed

Despite the disbandment of the SARS units, young Nigerians are still being treated as criminals. We talk to several of them about their experiences since the #EndSARS protests.

On September 12th, Tobe, a 22-year-old student at the University of Nigeria's Enugu Campus was on his way to Shoprite to hang out with his friends when the tricycle he had boarded was stopped by policemen. At first, Tobe thought they were about to check the driver's documents, but he was wrong. "An officer told me to come down, he started searching me like I was a criminal and told me to pull down my trousers, I was so scared that my mind was racing in different ways, I wasn't wearing anything flashy nor did I have an iPhone or dreads — things they would use to describe me as a yahoo boy," he says.

They couldn't find anything on him and when he tried to defend himself, claiming he had rights, one of the police officers slapped him. "I fell to the ground sobbing but they dragged me by the waist and took me to their van where they collected everything including my phone and the 8,000 Naira I was with."

Luckily for Tobe, they let him go free after 2 hours. "They set me free because they caught another pack of boys who were in a Venza car, but they didn't give me my money completely, they gave me 2,000 Naira for my transport," he says.

It's no news that thousands of Nigerian youth have witnessed incidents like Tobe's — many more worse than his. It's this helpless and seemingly unsolvable situation which prompted the #EndSARS protests. Sparked after a viral video of a man who was shot just because he was driving an SUV and was mistaken as a yahoo boy, the #EndSARS protests saw millions of young Nigerians across several states of the country come out of their homes and march against a system has killed unfathomable numbers of people for invalid or plain stupid reasons. The protests started on October 6th, 2020 and came to a seize after a tragedy struck on October 20th of the same year.

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