Kevin Esendi, is a graffiti artist who uses art to tell real life stories and influence solutions. He tells us his marriage with art could come to an end if there's a girl out there who thinks she can fit in his mother's shoes.
I would like to know why you chose to call yourself Bank Slave...
Bank signifies the hustle and search for money and Slave refers to the system of exploitation under which we all work. I see my identity as a victim of the capitalist system where the search for money is the be-all and end-all of life...
You have been a graffiti (spray painting) artist for about 15 years now. Is this the only line of work you are involved in or are there other artistic (or non-artistic) ventures that you are pursuing?
I’ve been mostly a full time aerosol artist. Sometimes, I paint on canvas with other mediums.
How fulfilling is spray painting as a career?
This career is what I understand best and feel was carved for me. I earn from it and being an artist with its challenges, I feel like I get better everyday artistically and business wise. I like the intrigues that both ends bring.
You have done some work with a number of the leading hip hop artists in the country. Painting backdrops for their music videos. In your view, what is the place of graffiti artistry in hip hop?
Graffiti was born with hip hop as one of its elements. It accentuates the styles brought out by an individual expressing themselves by providing a balanced backdrop with vibrant color and forms that bring harmony.
Observation for most artists is the source of their work. For others, observation is an obligation. As an art-ivist, what do you understand your obligation to be?
Well, I’m here to enlighten the community on issues that affect them and the solutions they can stimulate when they team up. With my art, I openly tell a story of the real life with simplified images.
Cynics believe that whereas art-ivism is a great call, it can actually be used by those in authority to subvert justice or fight partisan battles. There are countable occasions here in the country when art-ivists have been accused of being partisan. What can you say to such cynics?
I concur with the cynics. Some art-ivists get to be threatened and blackmailed or some fall for the money they are lured with, thus diluting the good cause.
Some artivists are genuine, some aren’t. I use graffiti in a clever way, a way that can be appreciated by my audiences and not attract high handed reactions from the authority.
Some of the murals that you have done are of prominent historical figures and modern international figures. Wangari Maathai, Mahatma Gandhi, Bruce Lee, Nelson Mandela, and Lupita Nyong’o among others. I am curious, do you think it is realistic to imagine (or assume) that when people see the painting of Gandhi they would consider being self-less?
You know, when I choose my subjects, usually, I think of the young person who might be passing by. I want them to be inspired and to find someone to look up to.
So, by putting up a Lupita or Gandhi, I hope to provoke thoughts and questions in the young person’s mind. That way, they can get interested in that person, find out about him or her and may be they can emulate how they lived. Or they can get to be inspired to do better.
How far do you want to take your artistry?
There is a woman reading this interview right now. Can you honestly tell her why you are still a bachelor?
(Laughs) Well, time will answer her...
Between the independence that comes with bachelorhood and the involvement that comes with marriage, which one do you prefer?
Independence works for me right now. Marriage and how it is involving, that, I will discover later.
Avoidance, isolation and distortion; psychologists believe that bachelors practice any of those mechanisms to keep people (potential) away from getting too close to them. What kind of bachelor are you?
Isolation sounds more like me...
If some friend, or aunt, or sister ever sets you up on a date because ‘they are worried’ about you, how would you handle the situation?
Of course I will be polite and thankful for their concerns. And, if the lady is fit for me then everyone is happy... Do you want to set me up?
Being single in adulthood is assumed to be a transient station in life. What will define your opting out (as in could it be possible that you are waiting for a specific thing for you to get married)?
I guess being an artist, I can wait for paint to dry. The virtue of patience is something I have practiced through the years and I know the fruits will be sweet. I love my mom and I would love to have a spirited, passionate, strong, driven, kind, witty and caring African woman like her.
Are there any specific three things that you admire in the lives of married men?
I admire the respect they get from society, the power of the ring, and the humbled person.
You have had a not so privileged upbringing, (growing up in Kibera). How different would you want your child’s life (if you plan on having children) to be from yours?
Of course I want the best for my kids. Their thoughts are part of what drives me today.