Kenya's railway art gets a new platform | 2019-07-15

Kenya's railway art gets a new platform


15th July, 2019 03:56:03 printer

Kenya's railway art gets a new platform

In the heart of Kenya's capital, Nairobi, alongside seemingly abandoned train carriages and overgrown tracks is a blossoming artists' community.

Just metres from a busy road, but screened by tall trees and long grass, it is hidden in plain sight. This has been home to the Bombsquad, or BSQ, Crew for just over a year.


Train with grafitti


The graffitied train carriages belong to Nairobi's railway museum and it feels as if they were parked behind its main exhibition hall decades ago.

The management agreed to rent a carriage to BSQ's three original members last year, who turned it into a studio. But as the group has grown to include 15 artists, the work has spilled into the adjoining yard.

In every corner and on every surface, a discarded board, a sculpture or installation is propped up, or stuck down or painted on.

There, on any given day, with music blaring from the small radio, artists are standing and sitting at easels or squatting over a canvas, peering closely at their work.


Artist working at an easel


Twenty-six-year-old Brian Muasasia Wanyande, known by his artistic name Msale, is one of BSQ's trio of founders. He combines his love of calligraphy and fine art to produce abstract murals, tattoo designs, stickers and T-shirts.

He also does portraits and as he delicately paints one on the side of a discarded spray can, he speaks about his bold vision for BSQ.

"It's already a movement. For me, five to seven years from now, I'm looking at BSQ as defining the street art culture in Kenya and art in general," he says.

His work, along with some of the others in the group, is in demand. Advertisers and musicians want to use it as backdrops and clients are commissioning large murals.


Man standing in front of train with graffiti


For him, BSQ fuses the fine art of a canvas with the spray can on the wall. He feels that their style is "more African and more original" where they have developed a way to "express ourselves as young Africans".

To those who might think that art is not a way to make a good living, Msale is pragmatic.

Ever since his father died during his first year at university, he has had to support himself. He learnt that though it was hard work he could make money through his art.


Interior of the train carriage


But he does not feel he is compromising himself.

"There is always a need for artistic solutions. Whatever the problem is, it is up to you as an artist to come up with ways of how to solve it without limiting yourself," he says.