Dust Depo Art Studio at the Kenya Railway Museum is one space in Nairobi that doesn’t just fill one hallowed hall. It actually extends from the Museum gate all the way down and around a long dirt road (possible a quarter of a mile) until you finally reach the entrance to the art studio started by Patrick Mukabi three years ago.
What’s adjacent to that long road is a seven foot brick wall that is filled with graffiti art by Kenyan artists who either currently work at the studio alongside Mukabi or they have passed through Dust Depo and left their mark.
That graffiti mark may not be indelible however, since the number of artists coming to Dust Depo specifically to work and/or study with Mukabi seems to be an endless stream. Aspiring artists like John Musyimi and Meschak Kidiavai came to the Museum’s art gallery specifically to find Mukabi, who’s a specialist in sharing his artistic skills with young men and women who want more than anything to become practicing artists.
Those who come to Mukabi’s space are a special breed in their own right since they tend to be extremely focused and attentive to the Master’s artsy instruction.
Mukabi tends to start everybody off with charcoal and everything moves from there. Indeed, countless Kenyan artists have studied with Mukabi and then, when they feel they’re able to paint, draw and stand on their own two feet artistically move on to establish studios of their own.
That includes artists like Mike Chalo, Naitiemu Nyamjom, Nadia Wamunyu, Andrew Otieno, Joan Otieno, Alex Mbevo and many more. But then there are also a slew of artists who stay close to Dust Depo and work with Mukabi on a myriad of projects that he gets enlisted in. Those include everything from teaching children’s art at The Hub to creating a recycled ‘junk art’ sculpture which they recently delivered to the United Nations Habitat headquarters in Gigiri.
“We stayed up nearly all night to prepare the sculpture to take the next day to UN Habitat,” says Michael Nyerere Odhiambo, one of Mukabi’s close associates.
But the most visible manifestation of the kind of creative expression that one finds in abundance at Dust Depo is the graffiti art that covers the brown brick wall. But what’s remarkable about the wall is not just its extended length and the fact that nearly every inch (or centimeter) of it is covered with colorful spray paint.
What’s even more unprecedented about it is that every six- or seven-foot panel of the wall, is painted by just one artist. That means that anyone making their way down that dusty dirt road can see a wide variety of artistic expression out on the wall in the open air.
There are several artists who have contributed more than one artwork on the wall. There is also the graffiti art trio of BSQ who have worked on the wall both in solo style and as a triad of talented artists.
The only problem with the Dust Depo wall is that so many young painters come to the studio hoping for a chance to make their mark on the Museum wall. Thus, some of the most interesting graffiti artworks are now history, having been painted over for the sake of the up-and-coming artists and the need to give everyone an opportunity to learn the art of graffiti spray painting.
So there’s no question, but that Dust Depo and its wall-full of graffiti is an artistic phenomenon that deserves to be seen by anyone who wants to know just how industrious and artistically gifted Kenyans can be.