street art and favela-ization: jr in kibera, kenya

Parisian street artist JR recently completed perhaps his most impressive work to date in Kibera, Kenya, the largest slum in East Africa. According to The Places We Live, about 700,000 people, a quarter of Nairobi’s population, live in Kibera, an area that is the size of “New York City’s Central Park.”

The Wooster Collective writes:”[A]fter more than a year of planning, 2000 square meters of rooftops have been covered with photos of the eyes and faces of the women of Kibera. The material used is water resistant so that the photo itself will protect the fragile houses in the heavy rain season. The train that passes on this line through Kibera at least twice a day has also been covered with eyes from the women that live below it. With the eyes on the train, the bottom half of the their faces have be pasted on corrugated sheets on the slope that leads down from the tracks to the rooftops. The idea being that for the split second the train passes, their eyes will match their smiles and their faces will be complete.”

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While there is an element of post-colonial voyeurism, which is unavoidable in any work that deals with the developing world from a privileged Western  perspective, what I like about JR’s work is that he creates and places massive images of everyday people in the areas in which is working in ways that incorporate the built environment and public memories of that specific location. While his work may distract from the social issues at hand, JR has gift for juxtaposing photography and the city in ways that evoke its beauty and humanness.

[via Wooster Collective, JR, and The Places We Live]

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