Moving through the streets of Nairobi (Kenya’s capital city), you witness the visual transformation of the city as a result of campaign posters pasted on all manner of surfaces, in a last-ditch effort to win the electorates’ vote. Nevertheless, to the attentive passer-by, not all things are as they first appear. Mingled within campaign adverts are posters that critique politics, question voting behaviour, and confront the control of public space. These faux campaign posters are created by a group of anonymous artists going by the name #NOIMPOSTERSHERE. Their aim is to create dialogue around the elections by producing conscious-raising, and at times humorous art work (in the form of posters).
Hundreds have been pasted across Nairobi’s different neighbourhoods, causing intrigue, admiration, amusement, suspicion, and in some cases, concern that they are an act of sabotage that will bring ‘genuine’ candidates misfortune. While many of the posters are created in a similar layout and look to conventional campaign posters, instead of trying to persuade somebody to vote for them, the posters created by #NOIMPOSTERSHERE push the viewer to reflect on who they will vote for and why.
Additionally, #NOIMPOSTERSHERE is responding to those who have visual control over the city, which most of the time is powerful corporations. However, during election periods this shifts to political parties or aspiring independents. Through this act of resisting control over public space, #NOIMPOSTERSHERE challenges the status quo by reclaiming public space and confronting the idea that because certain groups have the power to place campaign posters throughout the city (polluting the urban environment) they must be passively accepted as a one-way information flow.
The secrecy of who the artists behind #NOIMPOSTERSHERE may well remain. Unlike previous acts of artistic activism across Nairobi, in which individual names almost hijacked what the work was about; #NOIMPOSTERSHERE’s anonymity enables the group’s actions to speak for themselves. However, how well the creation of new aesthetics in people’s neighbourhoods is able to connect with citizens, through re-framing debates around issues of politics, democracy, fake news, and the control of public space – is uncertain. Nevertheless, given the increasing role of visibility in mobilising the public or drawing attention to issues, the creative movement of #NOIMPOSTERSHERE will indeed contribute to the availability of multiple ‘spaces’ in which different forms of discourse, public engagement and collective action can take place – something critical for democracy’s performance.