In Kenya, Street Art is Practical, Too

French street artist JR has taken his work where the Western art world has not looked in before: the intensely massive maze of Kibera, Kenya’s — and likely Africa’s — largest slum. He covered rooftops and a train that passes through the area with photos of the eyes and faces of women who live in Kibera. See his art here.

Today, after more than a year of planning, 2000 square meters of rooftops have been covered with photos of the eyes and faces of the women of Kibera. The material used is water resistant so that the photo itself will protect the fragile houses in the heavy rain season. The train that passes on this line through Kibera at least twice a day has also been covered with eyes from the women that live below it. With the eyes on the train, the bottom half of the their faces have be pasted on corrugated sheets on the slope that leads down from the tracks to the rooftops. The idea being that for the split second the train passes, their eyes will match their smiles and their faces will be complete.

As a former frequent visitor to Kibera, where I reported from for nearly three months, I’m amazed at the scope of this exhibit. Over one million people living on less than a square mile plot of land combined with crime and a sky-high unemployment rate makes for one volatile ‘hood. But Kibera also has a gloomy beauty to it, apart from the complex people I met in it. In early morning, before vendors and residents woke up, the light would glow on dull-colored shacks nearly stacked on top of each other among the trash-littered streets, and everything would seem calm.


Comments 7

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