A controversial Kenyan graffiti artist is one of the winners of the 2012 Prince Claus Prize. The annual prize, named after the late husband of Dutch Queen Beatrix, is awarded to people who make a difference in terms of culture or development. The artist, Boniface Mwangi, paints graffiti in Nairobi, denouncing the corrupt practices of his country’s politicians. They often feature vultures because he says, “they show our leaders for who they are: they’re scavengers”.
Before turning to graffiti, Mwangi was a photographer. During the violence in the run-up to the 2007 elections in Kenya, his pictures were published all over the world, including in The New York Times and The Guardian. But his photos were censored in Kenya. The violence left him so disillusioned with his country’s politicians that he decided to put down his camera and take up graffiti activism.
Mwangi was not the only recipient of the 2012 Prince Claus Prize.
Together with nine other artists, filmmakers and organisations, he received the €25,000 award. The Principal Prince Claus Prize was awarded to an Argentina publishing house, Eloísa Cartonera, which publishes hand-made books using recycled material.