May 27, 2011 – Long before the invention of billboards and advertising on neon boards there was something called wall art.
Wall art was found in a certain number of key establishments that formed the heart of every village and trading centre. Some to indicate that a particular establishment was indeed what you were looking for (like a tailor, barbershop etc), some just to make a certain building colorful and some to pass on a message.
The interiors of the said establishments (like restaurants) would have drawings instead of wall hangings as a way of killing plain colored walls.
The main idea back then was to advertise one’s wares to an illiterate and largely visual audience that the Kenyan commercial wall art industry was born.
All this has since changed since people now prefer clean walls and if there’s to be any wall art then a certain company has paid to have rights to advertise (have their product)on some building’s wall. Also, a majority of people are quite literate.
One award winning photo-journalist Arvind Vohora was quite fascinated by these wall arts that he felt needed them documented and he did just that. Some 23 years ago he decided to start taking pictures of art on wall. He then compiled them and documented them to come up with the book “Wall Art In Kenya”.
Wall Art In Kenya’s compilation and publication was sponsored by Safaricom. The book was launched yesterday at the Safaricom Michael Joseph center. Seeing as Michael Joseph is very passionate about art he had to be present at the launch. The book contains pictures that will take you way back when you could confirm that a bar was indeed a bar because there’s actually a drawing of people drinking beer on the bar.
It details masterpieces of the best of wall art works in Kenya. It is done in a way that suggests that the author was really passionate about what he was doing as the pictures are clear and are documented in an organized way.
The book has been categorized into Bars and lodges, Butcheries, Hair salons, Mermaids and Various dukas and there’s a translation page (sayings on the art translated from Swahili to English.) It also shows the route map of the towns the wall arts were taken.
The book is retailing at Ksh5, 000 right now and when it hits the bookstores ksh3, 000 and part of the proceeds will go to Kuona Trust (a non-profit organization which Arvind helped set up).
They say memories are forever, so this book will help you remember the good old days when walls represented canvas to an artist who could make a buck through drawing and making a plain wall have some action happening on it and through Arvind’s eyes this is now possible. Wall Art In Kenya is a book that you can keep referring to over and over just like you would an album as the pictures are quite appealing.
Here are some images from the book: