Graffiti art: Walls, wonderful murals take beauty all over town

Visual Arts

Graffiti art: Walls, wonderful murals take beauty all over town


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The bedroom has a window frame looking out onto a thick forest, by Shadrack Nduati, in Nairobi’s Kileleshwa on February 20, 2024. Margaretta wa Gacheru | Nation Media Group

Walls are being painted and beautified all over Nairobi. From Eastlands to Westlands, Kibera to Karen, they are called graffiti art or monumental murals, but they are springing up everywhere. You can find them in office blocks and hotels, outside City Market, and inside people’s private homes.

Unfortunately, most murals go unsigned. They remain conceived by anonymous painters. Of course, we know Camille Wekesa as a brilliant muralist, and Bankslave as a renowned graffiti artist, one among many whose names may not be so familiar. Ironically, many of them began as sign writers but now the next generation has transformed signs into murals that cover whole walls inside and outside commercial shops as Chela Cherwon did in creating giant red roosters at Kukitu where fresh fried chicken is sold.

When I heard one of my friends was having his whole new home covered in murals, I asked if I could come see it. That is when I met Shadrack Nduati, an unassuming yet multitalented artist who, at only 23, has already created a diverse range of murals, music, spoken word poetry, and performances on YouTube and Instagram.

Known to his YouTube fans as Shaddy Verz, he is also a music producer who makes music videos after having composed no less than 70 songs, a fraction of which he’s sung, rapped, and recited while ever in motion and dance.

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An intimate dining area is covered on three sides by a beautiful jungle-like garden scene by Shadrack Nduati. Margaretta wa Gacheru | Nation Media Group

Finding him in Kileleshwa recently at the spacious flat owned by my friend, I discovered three lush green floral rooms covered in nature-like artistry that made someone feel they were outside, just at the gate of heaven. It was that beautiful.

So where did all of this talent come from? He’d gone to BIFA, BuruBuru Institute of Fine Art and studied painting and drawing, he’d studied art history in secondary, and he had even studied with Patrick Mukabi at Dust Depo before Covid-19 hit and Patrick had to move to the T-Mall in Nairobi.

Shadrack is an authentic Nairobi child. Born in Embakasi and raised in that congested suburb of Githurai, he had the good fortune to have parents who promoted his blossoming career in the arts. His dad was a taxi driver by day, and by night, a sketch artist who taught his two-year-old son how to hold a pencil and start drawing himself. Meanwhile, his mom, being a teacher had pencils and other art materials available to him all the time he was growing up.

“Our living room was like a mini-school,” he tells BDLife. And his music started with his dad who was the lead percussionist at their church.

“From age five, he would hand me drumsticks and I would drum along with him,” Shadrack adds. So, both his parents were an inspiration for him. He gained more music knowledge after BIFA and after Dust Depo when he spent a year at a local music school learning to play the piano and operate digit music programmes that showed him how to make his music videos.

“I’ve also learned a lot from YouTube,” he adds. And his poetry was inspired by events at Kenya National Theatre where spoken word competitions showed him how poetry could communicate thoughts and feelings in ways he hadn’t known before. He’s been working with all these creative skills ever since.

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One wall in the living room is beautified by the garden jungle mural by Shadrack Nduati. Margaretta wa Gacheru | Nation Media Group

It was at Kenya National Theatre while he was drawing caricatures of visitors and fellow artists that he was noticed by the producer of Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s play, I’ll Marry When I Want’ who needed an artist to create the backdrops for his play. He called Shadrack who came with his portfolio, including info on his work creating murals, like one he did for the Red Buffalo Hotel in Lang’ata. He got to work immediately and created four huge backdrops that contributed to the ambience of the award-winning production.

Shadrack has been busy ever since then, creating murals and backdrops in private homes and for the Schools Drama Festival. But the most important job he has done since he started working with Stuart Nash, the play’s producer, came when Stuart called to ask him to create virtually wall-to-wall murals all around his new flat.

The call came in late 2023. Shadrack then produced three floral murals, including plants Stuart especially wanted in the picturesque scenes meant to convey the essence of beauty and generate a blissful peace of mind. A fourth mural looks out on an abundantly dense green forest, exactly what Stuart wanted from this talented young muralist.

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