What used to take the form of one-line hits in train interiors, broadly perceived as vandalism, graffiti - and by extension street art - has progressively become more widely accepted as a bona fide urban art form. Unlike many other cities in the world where street art can have an underground and illicit status, in Dakar (Senegal) it has become embraced as an ubiquitous urban art expression. Walls have become the canvasses for artistic expression in the city, under and along highway infrastructure, colouring buildings, and even commissioned on private homes. The works nurture public dialogue calling for improvements in city life, civic responsibility, celebrating cultural pride, unity and diversity, local culture and remembrance of influential leaders across the African continent.
With more than half of its urban population under 20 years of age, Dakar is well-poised to capitalize on its young creative talents. Over the past 10 years, Dakar’s street art has developed into a medium for open, accessible and community-focused urban culture in the city. The origins of city’s street art are firmly rooted in the Set-Setal movement, meaning ‘be clean-make clean’ in Wolof. Essentially a youth-led movement, the aim was to address poor civilian stewardship of public spaces through murals and public art.
The annual Festigraff festival for graffiti art held in Dakar celebrated its sixth edition in 2015. From the outset, Festigraff has been a creative, youth-inspired initiative that works to re-imagine and re-engage with the city. The festival features the creation of art murals and graffiti, street parades, training for young artists, conferences and free community concerts. It builds on community acceptance, appreciation and resources to foster creative expression, nurture professionalization, and strengthen artist networks both locally and abroad. Despite the broad acknowledgment of street art as an engine for developing local culture and tourism in Dakar, the festival relies on self-funding and financial support from international cultural agencies such as the Institut français and the Goethe-Institut.
Source: Arterial Network, report for Study Area 1