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Flossin Mauwano: The man and the myth

News

The writing is on the wall, literally. Many would argue that Flossin Mauwano does not qualify to be termed as a graffiti artist but some sort of runaway vandal. His name has been plastered all over the place, especially along major highways.  

His face is known by few but his motives have been questioned by many. His craft has been marked by experimentation and risks leaving behind more questions than answers.

The tagline ‘Flossin Mauwano’ has been associated with politicians and criminal gangs. Some even thought this was just another bunch of idle youths looking for attention.

So, who is Flossin Mauwano?

The mysterious man behind the markings is none other than 30-year-old Stephen Mule. Oddly enough, a conspicuous tattoo ‘Flossin’ is tattooed across his forehead.

His obsession though has a different story altogether.

“In 1997, I watched my parents get knocked down on the highway (along Langata Road) while escaping an irate crowd of youths following the election violence that erupted that year. The vivid picture of their lifeless bodies has forever been embedded in my head since then,” he says.

This, he says, is where his woes started and with them the birth of Flossin Mauwano.

 Stephen Mule aka Flossin Mauwano [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

His father, a military man, was also polygamous. So Mule was left in the hands of his stepmother. He says life was never the same after that.

He says he went through a tough time.

This saw him ditch home occasionally and would escape to funeral gatherings within Kibera where he would do his homework and take refuge.

“Sometimes I would talk to the ladies of the night who would accommodate me, feed me and assist with my homework.”

All this time Mule was able to continue schooling since his late father had taken an education policy. He grew a tough skin and had to learn survival skills out there in the streets.

He started hawking groundnuts for survival.

In the streets, he says he encountered so many road accidents and this prompted him to think outside the box.

 Stephen Mule aka Flossin Mauwano [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

“I thought of how I could help, road signs were present but no one cared about them. As an artist I thought of how to combat the menace and came up with the slogan. It sounds mysterious but go check, most of signings are around blackspots. This is something I took upon myself and I never explain it to anyone. I mark the place and move on.”

“My main aim is to caution drivers to do what is expected of them after they see the slogan. Most drivers once they see that sign, it becomes a puzzle, they may not understand but one might think probably there is a gang around that might attack anytime, but all in all, they become cautious of their surroundings,” he adds.

Well, this is not only confusing and sounds misleading but Flossin insists this is a pact he made to himself.

“I committed myself to this project and the tattoo was a vow, a promise that I was never going to look back on my mission.”

 “I mostly do the markings at night although sometimes inspiration hits during the day and I go out and express myself.” 

Ghost helpers

Although the venture seems quite expensive due to the expansive grounds the name appears he admits he is not the only one making the markings.

“This is a movement and youths have taken up the challenge although many don’t even know what the true meaning is,” he says.

“At the beginning, I used to buy my own spray paint but luckily enough I later partnered with a sponsor company who oversees that I don’t run out of paint,” Mule adds.

The same markings have seen him have run-ins with the authorities and he has ended behind bars a couple of times due to claims of vandalism. “I am not a vandal. I am simply misunderstood. I personally have sat down with the relevant authorities in charge of the highways but they mostly put me off as a young person on drugs. My drug of choice is music.”

While still struggling to make ends meet and the regular times he was out in the night, Mule bumped into the love of his life, Mercy Ndungú.

“We were living in Kangemi then and this lady was very generous and kind to me. She would hide part of her food and other necessity and she would pretend to going to the shops where she would drop the portions to me,” he says. The two became good inseparable friends.

As fate would have it, Mule’s Family moved to Langata and the bond suffered a break although Mercy came calling again.

“This time she came saying she was looking for a job and my stepmother hired her,” he says.

“She was the only friend I had and it didn’t take long for my stepmother to know there was something going on between us, “he adds.

Unfortunately, Mercy became pregnant while Mule was in form two and this meant only one thing, they had to kiss home goodbye. The two got a shack in Kibera and continued living as husband and wife.

“My mother was totally against the pregnancy and she insisted we get rid of it. My wife refused and we had to get our own means of survival."

Doubling up as a father to be a student and a hawker, Mule had to up his game. He would hit the booth, record some songs then hawk the physical CDs after school.

The two are blessed with a son, whom they named Nairobi Musembi. “I decided to call him Nairobi due to the life I went through this was in memory of the troubles I underwent in the streets” he says.

“I was a very bitter person but my wife brought the best out of me.”

Mule says he is also a jack of all trades; an interior designer a painter and a rapper.

 Stephen Mule and his wife Mercy Ndung'u [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

An impostor out there

“As I mentioned Flossing is a big brand, I am well aware that there is someone riding on that name, I would like to make it clear that that guy is a mischievous fraud. Flossin Mauwano doesn’t play video games.

"He should be warned that Flossin Mauwano is a creation of pain, hunger and anger the Stephen Mule went through,” he says.

This other person is well known to this writer and has been interviewed before.

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