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Meet Flossin Mauwano: City’s faceless, famous king of grafitti

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On roads and highways in Nairobi city, it is easy to spot the sign “Flossin Mauwano”.

Stephen Mule, aka Flossin Mauwano’s, iconic graffiti work always strategically painted on high walls, flyovers and lane barriers, has now found its way into other parts of the country, including Kisumu and Mombasa.

Mule’s work just like other street artworks have been met with various theories from simple tags of identity, to scrawled expressions of protests and politics to complex and beautiful scenes. Flossin Mauwano has been associated with politicians, criminal gangs out to mark their territories, but others just think it is a bunch of idle youth trying to waste time or

grab attention.

As mysterious as it sounds, the tag ‘Flossin Mauwano’ and its origin, has continued to baffle many Kenyans. And even finding the man behind the ‘graffiti’ is a Herculean task to say the least.

The long search for this faceless artist finally mates realised recently at a coffee shop in Nairobi’s Central Business District, where I finally got to have a chat with him.

As we sip coffee, cars right outside our cafe excessively honk at each other and flout traffic rules as drivers make angry gestures. It is rush hour and everybody wants to get home fast and by all means. The walkways are crowded by a sea of humanity.

Parents’ death

The 29-year-old’s voice is low pitched and is fiercely smart. A tattoo on his forehead ‘Flossin’ speaks about how he cherishes the tag. In fact, for him, the term ‘Flossin Mawuano’ reverberates as a ‘faith’.

But what is the origin of the word ‘Flossin Mauwano’ and what does it mean? Back in 1997, a grisly road accident robbed him of his parents. His father, a military officer stationed at Lang’ata Barracks, and mother, lost their lives as they tried to escape rowdy youth during that year’s post-election violence.

He was later left in the custody of his step mother. His stepmother would later marry his father’s lawyer and they connived to share his father’s property. That marked the genesis of Mule’s misfortunes. “At the age of six, I was forced to do a lot of household chores.

I used to spend the night in the cold after being locked out of the house,” he recalls adding, “It was a horrific experience,” he pauses, showing scars on his cheek a stark reminder of the abuse he underwent. But one particular incident in 1998, a year after losing his parents is still stuck on his mind. “That day, my stepmother literally set me on fire. Luckily I managed to escape and had to spend the night next to a running sewer in the slums of Laini Saba, Kibra,” he painfully grins.

His father had enrolled him on an education plan, so going to school was not a problem. But the situation became unbearable in the house, and he escaped to funeral gatherings within the slum to do his homework and

take refuge until the following day when he would sneak back to the house to his uniforms to attend school.

Mule had to learn survival tactics as life in the slum was not easy. “I started hawking groundnuts in the slum because I needed to eat.” Straddling between his rights violation and an empty stomach most of the time, he put a brave face until he was able to sit for his national exams at Kihumbuini Primary School, Kangemi having transferred from Glory Primary School in Kibra. His aunt facilitated the transfer.

Street life

He would, in 2007, join Lang’ata Secondary School, a boarding facility that accorded him a semblance of peace and concentration.

While in high school, his step parents had employed a house help who he says used to comfort him during his low moments. “We used to tell stories and she could encourage me never to give up. We fell in love and eventually she got pregnant,” he says.

In 2010 while in Form Three, his stepmother threw them out of the house. Mule was forced to rent a shanty within the slum. “I had to adjust my schedule as a student by day, a father by night and a hawker during weekends,” he narrates.

As if throwing him out their house was not enough, his stepmother tried to connive with a doctor to terminate the pregnancy. He confronted her about it only to dearly pay for his actions when he spent several months in jail.

His wife bore him a son whom they named, Nairobi, in memory of the troubled life he had undergone in the streets. “My son makes me happy. He makes me work harder every minute,” he says.

But it was the life in jail that transformed him from Stephen Mule to ‘Flossin Mawuano’. “I decided to stand for justice and my rights,” he said, his voice firm and with a sense of finality.

It took him time to build the courage to talk. When he finally opened up, he did it through his first single Juu ya Doh, loosely translated to “Because of money”, which he recorded the same year-to pour his tribulations as a teenage-hawker.

Mule says the phrase ‘Flossin Mauwano” is extracted from his Kamba dialect to mean ‘The one who tells stories during sun set’. “That is why I am rarely seen, I work at night.” When asked why he resorted to graffiti paintings to pass his message, he says “Actually, I am not the one who does those art works, it is my fans”. In 2011, when there was increased road accidents on Lang’ata road, together, they mounted a spirited road safety campaign on the road using a slogan to warn drivers of the dangers of over speeding.

And their rallying call was, ‘When you drive and see the slogan ‘Flossin Mawuano’, as a driver, you ought to exercise caution on the road’. Many people joined the bandwagon. His slogan would hit every corner of the city. Officials eventually erected bumps and zebra crossing signages on the road.

Landed in trouble

In Nairobi’s CBD and elsewhere, human rights activists and artists have transformed public spaces with art to advocate for change or simply pass a message. Mule describes his work as nothing far away from that. “Art helps one resist and persist”, he says.

But in 2018, his graffiti saw him rub the Kenya National Highways Authority the wrong way when he was summoned in court. They termed the graffiti an eyesore.

When not thinking about graffiti, Mule is at the studio recording his music. He says freedom, perseverance and child abuse forms a chunk of his themes when composing his songs.

Interestingly, his biggest wish is to unite Nairobians. “In a few years, I want to see a tribe called Nairobians speak in one language,” he quips.

He adds that to excel in street graffiti, one must be inspired and possess self-belief. “Artists should do art with the aim of creating a generation and to unite people. My graffiti has never paid anything in form of cash. It is priceless.”

By PD


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Courts

Willy Mutunga’s former wife loses bid to revive divorce suit

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Former Chief Justice Willy Mutunga’s ex-wife Beverle Michaele Lax (pictured) has lost a bid to revive a divorce appeal she filed against him in 2015.

The Court of Appeal had initially dismissed Lax’s appeal against a High Court divorce ruling for her lawyer’s failure to pursue it.

She, however, went back, saying her lawyers never informed her that the case was coming up.

But Court of Appeal Judges Asike Makhandia, Jamilla Mohammed and Sankale ole Kantai found that her conduct, while the appeal was pending, did not persuade the court to intervene.

According to the judges, Lax filed a separate case to dissolve the same marriage at a San Mateo County Court in California, US, and never informed the Kenyan court about it.

The court observed that the High Court had finally dissolved the marriage, hence her appeal had been overtaken by events.

“We cannot fathom the reason(s) for this action. Be that as it may, it does again point to the applicant as a person without candour. What the applicant is seeking from this court is really the exercise of discretion,” the judges ruled.

The court found that if Lax was discussing with her lawyers about their pay, they must have informed her about the appeal.

Lax told the court that she came to learn about the dismissal of her case in November last year when she temporarily visited Kenya. She narrated that she only managed to peruse the file on January 24, 2020 and could not have attended court as she was unwell.

She said her then lawyers failed to inform her that if she did not pay their legal fees, they would not attend the court sessions.

“There is no doubt that the applicant was in constant communication with her counsel who were irksome in demanding their legal fees and we therefore find it difficult to believe that she was not informed of the hearing date,”  the judges ruled.

Mutunga opposed her application and told the court he filed a divorce case against Lax in 2009. According to him, the court gave its judgement on July 26, 2012.

Aggrieved with the High Court’s decision, Mutunga said his ex-wife filed an appeal on September 18, 2015, but the case did not proceed out of her delaying tactics.

He explained that when the case came up for hearing on November 18, 2015, Lax sought for Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu, who was then a Court of Appeal judge, to withdraw from the bench that was hearing the case.

By Standardmedia.co.ke


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Health

MP’s battle with Covid-19 at home

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On November 2, Nakuru Town West MP Samuel Arama drove to Naivasha to attend the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) meeting.

Earlier, Mr Arama had taken a Covid-19 test at a health facility in Nakuru after he experienced chills at night.

However, on arrival at the hotel where he was to spend the night, he started experiencing chills again and developed fever, pain in the joints and nausea.

Soon he started experiencing shortness of breath.

He informed his colleagues that he was feeling unwell, and they quickly planned to take him to Nairobi for treatment.

Not able to walk

“When I booked into my room, my body temperature was high and I had chills. It was at that time that I received a phone call from health officials that I had tested positive for Covid-19. I had gone for the test before travelling to Naivasha,” he recalled.

But when he informed the department of health about his plan to travel to Nairobi for treatment, he was counselled and advised by the County Chief Officer of Public Health Samuel King’ori to self-isolate in his house where he would be monitored by medics.

Inside an isolation room in his house, he was put on supplemental oxygen and fed through tubes, with doctors examining him in the morning, afternoon and at night.

“For the past several weeks, I have kept off the public because I was not able to walk, talk or eat after being diagnosed with Covid-19,” said Arama.

After 15 days, he began to feed normally and later tested negative for coronavirus.

“God has been merciful to me. Gasping for air and feeding through tubes was the most trying moment in my life. Actually, this was my first time to feed through tubes and get oxygen support,” he said.

The MP plans to work with community health volunteers, the police and youth to sensitise locals on Covid-19 preventive measures.

He wants to buy at least 20,000 masks to distribute to the needy through local administrators and nyumba kumi members.

Prior to being diagnosed with Covid-19, Arama used to hold a meeting with constituents.

Initially, he used to criticise police whenever they arrested people for contravening Covid-19 protocols.

“At times I would rush to the police station whenever I heard that someone had been arrested, but now I support the police to fully enforce the set containment measures. It is through discipline that we will save the society,” he said.

He said during meetings with constituents he never thought he would contract the virus.

“I take this opportunity to thank God for giving me this second chance to serve Him and the people of Nakuru Town West,” he said.

His message to the public is to wear masks, wash hands with soap and water and avoid crowds.

“We need everyone to put on masks, wash hands with soap and water and avoid gatherings. This is the only way to contain the spread of this virus,” said the MP.

Dedication and courage

Arama applauded health workers in Nakuru, for their dedication and courage in the fight against Covid-19.

“I can confirm to you that Nakuru County has the best health facilities, equipment and qualified medical personnel. I spent two weeks on oxygen support machine, intensive treatment and consistent checkups,” he said.

Health records indicate that the attack rate in Nakuru is 169.2 out of 100,000 population, with a case fatality of 2.2 per cent.

Although the MP was reluctant to reveal the cost of his treatment, a source at the local department of health told The Standard he incurred a bill of Sh51,684 per day because he required supplemental oxygen and his condition was critical.

By Standardmedia.co.ke


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Business

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