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 February 5, 2014.   1 Comment
This time, we have the chance to interview an interesting graffiti artist from Kenya. Artist ESEN.

  GS: What is your tag name and why did you choose it?

ESEN: My tag name is ESEN or sometimes ESEN 2 depending with the mood of the day. I can get all philosophical or historical about it but it’s just simply my name.  But In any case am honored to share the name with some pretty badass historical figures like Esen Buqa II who was the uncontested Khan of the Moghulistan from 1429. Esen Taishi, some powerful Mongolian Khan of the 15th century. We also have somebody like Balrthasar Oomkens Von Esens (German) who was an East Frisian Nobleman or aristocrat and a bunch of other names prominent personalities.  Just to point out, I found all these by accident when I was looking out for people I share the name with. 
GS: How and why did you get into street art (graffiti)?
ESEN: I started art when I was in Kindergarten. I remember I would draw Safari Rally on the floor or at the back of my school books’ cover to impress chicks (hehehe…it would actually work). The focus hen was more on fine art. When I got into high school I was fully introduced to the Hip hop culture and briefly became a rapper but everything changed once I bought my first copy of THE SOURCE MAGAZINE in 2001.It had all these amazing graffiti and tattoo art; that combined with a bunch of Hip hop videos I had seen graffiti in them, I WAS TOTALLY HOOKED! I weighed my future as a rapper or a graffiti artist and I realized the chances of me making it as a graffiti artist was much higher. I have never regretted the choice I made. I doubt any serious Graffiti Historian can talk about graffiti in East and Central Africa and not mention my name at all! It’s an amazing feeling…
GS: How would you describe your style?
ESEN: I have a couple of styles. I definitely hold down the 3D frontier in East Africa.  I also do semi wild style with a little of Afrocentric touch in it. I do characters too sometimes. I wouldn’t say I have perfected the styles or the art yet coz it takes time and crazy amount of practice to do that. I am almost there though.
GS: Where did you begin making art in the streets and how old were you?
ESEN: I started in 2001 in high school when I was around 16 but i took it serious in 2004 and my first tag was in Nairobi.
GS: What crew(s) are you in?
ESEN: Locally I represent 3WG (Third World Graffiti) which we formed with my boy Wise 2. It’s represented in a couple of countries like Singapore, Indonesia, and Germany. I am also a sole representative of two international crews in the whole of Africa namely SC (Silver Caps Worldwide) which is run by my men Some 1 from Barcelona Spain and TPA (The Public Animals) Run by Joey from US. It’s one the oldest crews in states. I was in a bunch of other local crews too, but some of them died off.
GS: How did you develop such good technical painting and drawing skills? 
ESEN: Research, practice, research, practice, practice, practice and more and more practice! You don’t improve your skills by sitting around and hoping everything works out just because you have passion for graffiti. You have to get your hands dirty literally!!
GS: what do you think is the most difficult thing in graffiti? 
ESEN: Being original and creating your own style. The internet is a double edged sword; it can break or make an artist! We have millions of pieces out there so it’s so easy to copy paste a style. But any real writer will see through your fake style a mile away. And that’s why we have been working our ass off to develop our own original East African style one step at a time.
GS: What are some of the writers who have inspired you?
ESEN: The artist who inspires me changes with time and inspires me in different ways. Could be the style, skills, being prolific or just being insane with the can… T-kid, Tats cru, Mac Crew, Cope 2, Sen 2, Dare, Nash, Mad C, Slider, Ezra One, Peeta, Daim, Rasty, Faith 47 and a bunch of other names.
GS: How do you pick your locations?
ESEN: A lot of factors affect the choice of location like the human traffic targeted, legal spots or illegal spots, logistics, the nature of the wall and so on. When doing illegal, the places with the highest risk of being caught are normally the best if you can pull that stunt.  For instance if I did a throw up or a piece at the Parliament building, that shit would be covered by all the major media houses in the country. But most of us have all these responsibilities on our shoulders and can’t risk getting caught so we rarely pull such stunts and instead focus on less risky locations and take out time doing our thing! 
GS: What tools do you use? Only spray paint?
ESEN: I use just spray paints but am versatile and I can use any medium if I wanted to.
GS: Do you pre plan your murals, or make it up as you go along?
ESEN: No, I like to do it freestyle and make it up as I go along. It’s more challenging that way. But it helps to have a rough concept in your head first then you can tweak it however you want in the wall.
GS: Would you like to share some tips and tricks? 
ESEN: Art regardless of which form we are talking about is like riding a bike, anyone and I mean ANYONE can learn as long as they have an interest and a positive mental attitude towards it.
GS: Any unforgettable story that you would like to share with us? 
ESEN: There are lots of those stories especially when we started out in my first two original crews IAS (Ill Art Squad) and ICG (Intense Cities Group). We were pretty young and reckless. There is one time me and Felok armed ourselves and went to bomb the whole stretch of Jogoo Rd from the City Stadium up to the Donholm round about. We did our thing covering the whole highway with throw ups and tags. When we reached Buru Buru Phase 5 the paint was almost over so we decided to go home. But as fate would have it, Felok saw a freshly painted gate which was pretty tempting so he decided to go and bomb it. Before he could finish it a security guard pops out. Felok dropped the cans and we started walking away slowly in different direction.  Then that guard chased Felok blowing the whistle and calling for assistance from the guys who work around the place but they ignored him. The guy didn’t give up, he chased Felok for like 500 meters but Felok didn’t stop. He ran crossed the Outering Rd. and disappeared in Donhom Estate and that’s when the guard give up. Felok was so scared he went straight home and changed his clothes. I was lucky coz I ran and got into a 60/35 mat and the guard couldn't chase me. The guy wouldn't have touched me in the mat coz it was from my hood, so I was safe!
GS: Have you collaborated with any artists recently? Who and what work has come out of it?
ESEN: Well, lately I have done a bunch of productions with a bunch of writers like Swift 9, Kesh 113(Italy), Slick, and a couple of others.
GS: Any message to other artists?
ESEN: For the young artists coming up; you don’t get better by sitting down and wish thinking.  You can do something clean and good even with a single can so don’t use materials as an excuse to be LAZY!!! For the old establish cats in this game; it’s not always about you but the graffiti scene in general. So give support to the young blood comin up after you. That’s what makes the graffiti scene grow bigger and faster. On that note shout outs to some serious crews that are doing some serious work UGC (KE), SPU (KE), 3WG (KE), WTC (TZ). UG cats where you at? Holla, let’s grow this biaaach!!!!!!   
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Slick.Graffiti Weasol - 11/02/2014 at 01:20
 +254 all the way:love2: