Artistic Paintings on Nairobi Buildings & Their Hidden Meanings

  • Photo collage between Murals on ExTelecoms House and City Market
    Photo collage between Murals on ExTelecoms House and City Market
  • Nairobi Central Business District has continued to transform into a fast-paced urban centre filled with exquisite mural paintings that have hidden meanings other than the visual aesthetic value.

    The paintings were all carried out under the county beautification programme. The ExTelcoms House and murals on the city market stand out within the city.

    Edward Ndekere, a lecturer at the Department of Fine Art and Design at Kenyatta University, was the lead consultant for the City Market’s project.

    Launched in 2021 and finalised in April 2022, the painting project was funded by the National Government through the Department for Housing and Urban Development.

    Murals on the City Market located in Nairobi CBD
    Murals on the City Market located in Nairobi CBD

    According to Ndekere, the murals were strategically placed to communicate the theme of President Uhuru Kenyatta at work.

    "Those murals represent what Uhuru has achieved throughout his tenure with each piece highlighting the Big Four Agenda. They also send an inspiration for preserving the African culture.

    "The art on the market represents what has been accomplished by his administration. We then added beautiful patterns inspired by African culture," Ndekere explained.

    Victor Mwangi, a seasoned artist coordinated the transformation of the ExTelecoms House located along Haille Selassie Avenue.

    Over 7000 litres of paint were used in a two-month period to alter the look of the entire building.

    The artists transformed the ExTelecoms building into the biggest mural in East and Central Africa, and the 4th biggest in Africa. 

    Every facet of the building has a different mural painting with a hidden message. Its facade shows a woman carrying a pineapple on her head and a slice of the fruit in her hand.

    According to Talent House, an organisation championing art and fashion, the mural painting communicates that it is essential for one to take one step at a time. This can be seen by the woman who is carrying a heavy burden, but focusing on the small slice in her hand. 

    The painting symbolises the need to balance the burden of career, finances, fertility issues, and sexuality among other things on her head while the other hand is free to hold a slice for pleasure and leisure. 

    On the right side of the wall is a mural depicting girls running to school while wearing black ankle-length cut rubber shoes. Talent House's notes that the rubber shoes which are common in the city, indicate ties that bind all Kenyan women.

    Murals on the side of ExTelecoms building located along Haille Selassie Avenue
    Murals on the side of ExTelecoms building located along Haille Selassie Avenue

    With the dove at the top, the painting implies that growth takes place in several phases of life and each stage is vital in scoring success.

    Another mural covering the entire building shows a woman in a headscarf, a girl in a vest and jeans, and a woman operating a smartphone while dressed in traditional attire.

    This represents different women in the country with their different cultures. According to creatives from Talent House, the larger mural sends a message of acceptance and oneness.

    It means that despite people holding different values and beliefs, they ought to be respected in society and granted equal opportunities to thrive.

    The messages are not necessarily reserved for women but also for men and other people in society.

    Eliud Kipchoge's mural near the ICEA building along Kenyatta Avenue encourages one to remember that No Human is Limited.