Celebrating African street art

SANAA festival is coming back to Adelaide with music, visual art, street art, performance, workshops and storytelling, the festival will showcase artists and creatives from East and West Africa, as well as South Australia’s diverse multicultural community.

In March 2018, Adelaide will be hosting West Africaís first female graffiti artist, Dieynaba Sidibe – aka Zienexx from Senegal, Kenyan street artist Kaymist and visual artist Joan Otieno plus three returning artists, street artist Bankslave and Swift9, and visual artist Onyis Martin. They will collaborate with leading South Australian street artists, transforming city spaces, as well as sharing, exploring and learning about one anotherís culture, through their art form.

An Exhibition will be held in the Kerry Packer Civic Gallery – the University of South Australia, showcasing the work of these emerging artists from the African continent. A number of artist-led workshops will be delivered and a public lecture will be presented by Pakistani writer, educator and poetry slam champion Zainab Syed – who through written expressions will share her stories about the world, in a unique and poetic manner.

SALT Magazine got in touch with three of the artists to glean an insight in to what drive them to do what they do.

Dieynaba Sidibe – Senegal

You are Senegal and West Africa’s first female street artist. Tell us a little bit about your journey?

“I started to learn graffiti when I was 17 years old through the association in which I work AFRICULTURBAN with graffiti artist of the name of GRAFIXX and it was only in 2008 that I started to mix with the walls little by little until now”.

West Africa is renowned for its creativity. Can you tell us about Dakar and Senegal’s artistic scene?

“Dakar artistic scene is so hot with good vibes. And artists are very kind. In Senegal we have different artists with different style some people are dope in wild style, bubble, portray, trompe l’oeil and others styles like that. But we can find a big different with others area like Europe or America. Here in West Africa the artistic scene is so spiritual, politic and social. Not just the Blaze or the name on walls”

You are passionate about helping women and girls, how does street art help you to achieve this?

“ Women and girls lives are very important. So they need to be represented in my artwork to help them understand their value”.

What advice do you have when it comes to females breaking through male dominated industries like street art?

“I will simply tell them that art does not have sex. That they live their passion truly and never accept to be shattered by the words or reactions of others about what they do. Each person is special, and each of us has something deep inside of him that someone else does not have, just self-boosting and planning for the future”.

What are you most looking forward to about your time in Australia?

“The exchange and sharing with all the other artists who participate in this festival, I’m so excited, especially to see a Kangaroo in real life. Looool”.

Bankslave – Kenya

You were in Adelaide almost one year for the inaugural Sanaa Festival. What’s been happening over the past year in your world, artistically?

“I have been working on some commissioned pieces in my country Kenya and some work on canvas that I plan to have with an exhibition in the capital Nairobi in mid-2018”.

The street art scene in Nairobi has had a light shone on it in recent years. Why do you think people are starting to take notice?

“People are taking notice on our artwork because it speaks of our character as Kenyans and as Africans in an artistic angle. Our hard work and support from the audience also helps build more attention to our street art scene”

We hear you Miss Adelaide! What was it that you most enjoyed about Adelaide?

“I really do miss Adelaide. I found some new friends there and the warmth of the people really makes you want to stay longer. I miss everyone, even the kangaroos”.

You are a role model to a multitude of Kenyans. What is it you hope to inspire others to achieve, through your art form?

“I hope to improve lives with my art, put up smiles and make my city as beautiful as I can as Leonardo da Vinci did at his time”.

Joan Otieno – Kenya

Tell us about yourself as an artist?

“I am Joan Otieno, a Kenyan artist born May 1983. My father was a painter. My mother is a fashion designer part time. I started painting at a tender age. My first painting was a lion portrait which was exhibited in 1995 at Gallery Watatu in Nairobi alongside my father’s artworks. My father died and I kept on painting but only on a few occasions. After which I came back to the art scene in 2012 to do it full time”.

You have only become a full time artist in more recent years. How did you enter into the scene and why?

“Once an artist always an artist! Since I did not get any art support from my mother and step father, I was forced to do accounting. But when I went on a campus trip to Mombasa and saw painters’ paintings at the beach with tourists buying…..my life took a turn and I dropped my studies half way and immediately started painting again at the beach at another artist’s studio.  Art is my passion. It’s my choice, and nothing gives me more joy like art. With art am able to explore my world freely”.

Transforming trash into art is what you are known for. Where does your inspiration come from?

“My inspiration comes from my environment, the change in fashion trends and the cultural differences”.

What are you most looking forward to about your time in Australia?

“I am most looking forward to working with youth and creating fashion dresses, hats and ornaments out of waste materials… And more so, seeing these been modelled on the runway!!”


SALT Magazine is an African-Australian Community News Magazine, created to provide print and online news and information on a broad range of issues of interest to the African community in Australia as well as to the wider general public. Our main aim is to act as a platform for the voice of the new and emerging African Australian communities, providing an African perspective to Australian topics. We wish to highlight African refugee success stories and encourage community development by exploring the challenges faced by new arrivals.

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