By Andrea Sanz Yus
Nairobi, Jun 23 (EFE) – Inspired by the great muralists of Latin America, Kenyan artist Bhupi Jethwa has emerged as an original alchemist of color who has left his stamp on walls in numerous countries blending traditional and contemporary motifs.
Since 2012, Jethwa, of Indian descent and better known by his stage name WiseTwo, has been painting street art in Kenya and around the world.
The vibrant colors of his murals contrast with Nairobi’s reddish sand and catch the eyes of passersby in the Kenyan capital every day.
Beyond Kenya, Jethwa has traveled to more than 15 countries, painting on walls in remote villages, cities and iconic buildings in Austria, Germany, Sweden, Uganda, the United States, Cuba, Colombia and Mexico, among many other nations.
Jethwa began painting as a child, after watching his friends graffiti on the streets of Nairobi and becoming fascinated by this “rebellious” side of painting.
“I saw my friends painting graffiti and I loved it, especially I liked to understand that part of rebellion that is in the art of painting,” the artist tells EFE in front of one of his latest murals under the new elevated highway in Nairobi, a Chinese construction work.
“When you are a teenager everyone is rebellious, you want to go against the system and you want to create something for yourself. I wanted to be different, I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing.
And the truth is that it wasn’t a decision, I started painting. And after a while, I realized that I had become an artist,” he adds.
Some of Jethwa’s works in Nairobi are exhibited in entertainment venues, such as the Nairobi Street Kitchen or The Alchemist, which are very popular among Kenyans.
His great source of inspiration comes from Latin America, a “special” place full of “good things” that he discovered ten years ago when he traveled there because of his interest in learning about the ancestral culture of Latin American countries.
“I went to Colombia and I loved it. I think Colombia is a great base for graffiti and you can find a lot of inspiration there. Then I also like Mexico because of all its famous muralists, José Clemente Orozco, Diego de Rivera… There the art is theirs, their own,” he explains.
When he started traveling around Latin America, painting murals on walls full of symbolism and energy, he discovered the vibrant colors of Mexico, the “warmth and hospitality of the Latinos” and the history of the Mexicans and their ancestors.
For WiseTwo, Africa and Latin America are two very similar places, with a similar society, a rich culture and a very similar “way of people moving”.
THE COLOR OF ENERGY
Jethwa’s murals are full of color and energy, where the main elements are masks, ancestral culture, spirituality and mysticism.
The masks are for him a representation that “you can never be one hundred percent yourself”.
“I like to paint masks because we all wear masks in our daily lives, for interactions, to meet people (…) We have a lot of shadows and darkness, but also a lot of light, it depends on the mask you wear,” he says.
This element also represents the cultural mix between the two continents that inspire his work, where he unites symbols of the ancestral Latin culture, characters such as his enigmatic women with big eyes and African nature.