Visual Arts

Creative trio on mission to create murals with meaningful messages

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Creative Murals trio, Okoth, Mwas, and Kevoh at Erdemann Chinese School on December 8, 2022. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHEU | NMG

Creative Murals is a trio of young Kenyan artists who, like the troika of graffiti artists, BSQ, work together on walls to create murals with meaningful messages that are also beautiful to behold.

The three, Kevoh Maina, Okoth Uhuru, and Mwas Githinji, haven’t been together very long. The connecting link between them is a Chinese documentary filmmaker named Du Fengyan. 

“I work a lot with young Kenyan artists,” the Zimmerman-based filmmaker Du told BDLife. “But after I met Kevoh, teaching art to kids at the Saturday Farmers Market, I told him about a mural my friend Charlie wanted for his school.”

After that, the scene snowballed as Kevoh got ahold of his fellow artist Okoth, and they met up with Mwas. After that, the three of them went to see Charlie at his school to find out what kind of mural he wanted. 

From the look of Charlie’s wall outside the front entrance of his Erdemann Chinese School on Laikipia Avenue, the four of them, including Charlie, worked well together. 

“We are happy to have found these three Kenyan artists since they’ve worked with us to create exactly what we wanted expressed on our wall,” Charlie Yang, the Principal at the Erdemann Chinese School told BDLife.

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Collaboration between (L-R) Charlie, Okoth, Mwas, and Kevoh at the mural they made at Erdemann School on December 8, 2022. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHEU | NMG

Yang is a trained medic who specializes in a blend of both Chinese and Western medicine. He was teaching Chinese at the Confucius Institute at Kenyatta University when another friend invited him to become principal at his pre-primary school.

He took up the task and said he has been happy working with children and their parents ever since.

His school educates children from the ages of two up to age six, revealing just how important and highly valued is early childhood education to the Chinese.

“Our curriculum is a combination of both Chinese and British,” Yang says, adding that the ratio between teachers and kids is 12 to 27. “We have three teachers per class, and all our children learn to speak Chinese and English.” 

In addition to language learning, these children are introduced to a wide range of activities from sports and other forms of play to art, music, and other social skills.

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PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Rather than talk about the wisdom of his school’s progressive work with kids, Charlie wanted the mural to illustrate the many facets of its early education program.

“The wall has 16 panels,” says Mwas who worked according to Charlie’s specifications. “All of them begin as window-like frames into which we drew and painted the images we discussed with him,” he adds.

After that, all of the figurative and colourful paintings within each frame are self-explanatory. First comes the lion and panda bear, standing peacefully, side by side.

They are meant to communicate the overriding message of the murals, which is the value of collaboration between the two cultures and communities. The lion symbolizes Kenya and the Panda bear, represents China. 

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PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

The story unfolds chronologically with the second panel showing the two-year-olds soft landing with their mothers coming to the school and getting comfortable with the surroundings.

Here is where they also meet their teachers, specially trained in teaching toddlers. The mothers cuddle their kids who will soon be continuing with new friends and maternal figures. 

There’s a glimpse in the next panel of the old and the new China. But quickly, the mural moves on to a colourful array of activities, starting with the slightly older children learning kung fu and being taught by a child older than six.

All the paintings in the murals are figurative, colourful, and eye-catching. The next one has children of all hues dancing on top of a globe. “The aim of this one,” says Charlie, “is to show that despite our school being called Chinese, we have 20 per cent who are international students and are also welcomed here.”

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PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Then as one walks down Laikipia road, this long mural is full of fascinating activities. In one mural, the kids build a wall out of lego bricks. In another, they are being shown playing instruments of all kinds simultaneously as they are looking through microscopes. 

“We want to introduce all kinds of career possibilities to the kids as early as possible,” Charlie says. Then, interspersed between the children’s activities are contrasting images of birds, bushes, and buildings, including the Kenyatta Conference Centre, painted next to an Emperor’s castle.  

The final panel is on graduation day where the kids are elated, and ready to embark on further education.