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  • Kenyan artists at Adelaide Street Festival (SBS)
A group of five street artists from Kenya, with a worldwide reputation for pushing boundaries, will transform a city street of Adelaide this week with spectacular murals inspired by life conditions in East-African slums.
Bertrand Tungandame, Gode Migerano

30 Nov 2016 - 4:19 PM  UPDATED 22 Feb 2017 - 10:39 AM

The five artists are in town for the Adelaide Street Festival which runs from Wednesday 22 February to Sunday 26 February.

Below: Adelaide Street Festival director Victoria Lewis speaks with Gode Migerano on the SBS African Hour:

The East-African artists' work is not just about artistic beauty. It also conveys powerful messages of peace, democracy, cultural diversity and hope. Values that they share with the Kerry Packer Civic Gallery in the Bob Hawke Centre at the University of South Australia which will also hold a parallel exhibition of a selection of their creations in the sidelines of the Fringe Festival.

Interestingly, the late Nelson Mandela was once a patron of the prestigious Bob Hawke Centre.

The transformation of an Adelaide city street with East-African street art will be launched with an African music and art as well as a dance and cultural festival involving South-Australian migrant communities from Kenya, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Ghana. 

It all kicked off with an Aussie documentary maker...


Victoria Lewis, an Adelaide based documentary maker, is the event promoter. She explains that the idea of bringing the East-African artists to Australia and showcasing their art and talent, "started as a project exploring the power of art as a catalyst for positive change in the communities of Kenya and Tanzania and producing a short documentary”.

In the course of shooting her documentary Victoria met various artists from different forms of art including visual artists, painters, graffiti artists, musicians and fashion designers.

This ignited in her the thirst to learn more about the power of art in changing lives, generating confidence and hope in the outlook for the future.

Popo kids display talent and exude hope 

Lewis says that she discovered an abundance of artistic talent in the East-African Communities that she worked with. And this opened her eyes to a new reality.

"In the West, perceptions of Africa are based on media reports portraying widespread poverty, corruption, crime, genocide, conflict, the world's poorhouse," she explains.

"The world and Africa, has its fair share of problems, however our vision of Africa is ambivalent and dominated by these representations."

Impressive creations with a powerful message

The artists that she met defy the image of Africa that is depicted in Western media.

Lewis was particularly impressed by the Eat-African artists' creations.

"Their murals are quiet colourful, big, powerful with a message," she says.

"These artists walk away saying that they left the place in a better condition than how it was before."

Listen to the full interview with Victoria Lewis (in English) and SBS African below:

Leading artists inspire younger generations

Lewis also observed how East-African children follow in their elders' footsteps to pursue their own dreams. This was displayed in an event that she remembers vividly.

"The day we painted Jericho, which is a suburb in Nairobi, there were a lot of kids around," she says. "We started the day with much resistance about art going up on the wall. And by the end of the day the kids were copying the artists…These kids were from a fairly disadvantaged background."

Victoria Lewis's full exploration of East-African street art can be seen in her documentary, Slum Ballet.

Watch the full documentary below:

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