Located inside a train at the Nairobi Railways Museum is the BSQ Crew art studio. Inside this unique space are amazingly decorated walls and seats. There are also some paintings hanging on different parts of the walls. It is such a magical space to work from.
The Bomb Squad Crew, better known as BSQ Crew is a street art group comprising of three amazingly talented artists. These have managed to combine their different styles and techniques to come up with amazing murals. The group comprises of Kaymist4 who uses mechanical features such as bolts, screws and gears in his murals, Thufu-B who incorporates lines and curves into his works and Msale whose murals always feature distinct abstract afro patterns.
During our visit to the studio, we got to speak to both Thufu-B and Kaymist4 as Msale was away working on a project. The trio met in 2013 at the GoDown Art Center while under the mentorship of Patrick Mukabi, a renowned Kenyan artist. According to Kaymist4, their ability to blend their different techniques and styles is the main factor that brought them together.
The BSQ art studio was officially opened in May 2018. They always wanted a studio where they could independently work from but had never imagined getting one in a train. “Getting this studio shook the art industry”, says Thufu-B. The main task was to work on the train and make it a favorable working space. They worked tirelessly and transformed the train into a studio, with enough working space and even a resting place as they think of their next projects.
BSQ Crew focuses on graffiti for various reasons. “There is more appreciation by the people who come across the murals on various parts of the streets. I also got into it to challenge myself as I was using canvas before. The money in graffiti is also good.”Kaymist4 says. For Thufu-B, he moved to graffiti from painting on canvas as a way of looking for new experiences. “I wanted to go big in art and showcase my work to more people.” He adds that graffiti offers faster cash as opposed to painting on canvas and showcasing in galleries.
Speaking on art generally in Kenya, Thufu-B ascertains that most Kenyans prefer Graffiti to paintings. According to him, his paintings are mostly accepted outside the country. ”I paint traditional African women before colonization and slave trade began but interestingly, my clients are all from abroad” he says. He is quick to add that he paints that because it is what he can relate to.
For Kaymist4, he believes that Kenyans should learn about art from a young age. “Kenyans do not appreciate paintings so much because they are not taught to embrace art from an early age, for example in schools”, he says. He adds that he always leaves room for people to interpret the message of his art as they please. ”I let them derive the message on their own as they please”, he says.
BSQ Crew has collaborated with other artists locally and internationally. “We have worked with almost all the renowned Kenyan graffiti artists. We have also worked with a Californian hip hop ambassador and Swiss artists” says Kaymist. They also participated in the Sanaa Festival in Adelaide, Australia where they collaborated with Australian artists. The BSQ Crew gets both corporate and individual commissions from locals and foreigners.
They are also involved in community projects. In Kaymist4’s words “Once in a while, we carry out community projects. We would like to do more of those but lack of paint is usually a challenge.” Thufu-B adds that whenever they are left with paint after completing a project, they work with various communities in Nairobi. “We have painted in Jericho with our remaining paint”, he says.
Another way in which they give back to the community is by offering free mentorship to upcoming artists. “We do it for free because we were also received free mentorship when we were starting out”, says Thufu-B.
The crew has had their share of challenges. For Kaymist4 his main challenge was convincing his parents that he wanted to live on art alone. “I had to really prove myself to my parents for them to concur with my decision”, he says. He also adds that some people may belittle an artist’s work which can be demoralizing to the individual. “It is also hard to get a market for my murals yet it is what I make a living out of”, he says.
They also face what they term as minor challenges which they manage to overcome. These include painting without interference from outsiders and sometimes having the right materials. “We may not have a variety of colors but we still manage to come up with great pieces even with two colors”, Thufu-B says.
Both Thufu-B and Kaymist4 would like the public to understand that graffiti is not all about vandalism. According to them, graffiti is a form of adding life to any plain space. They therefore urge people to embrace graffiti more. The two artists conclude by saying that they love challenges and there is none they won’t try out. “BSQ may go to the moon”, concludes Kaymist4.