Mellow yellow: Kenya’s mosques and churches painted ‘in the name of love’

Source: The Guardian


The Colombian-American artist Yazmany Arboleda is painting the city of Nairobi yellow – or at least its houses of worship. As part of his public art project Colour in Faith, religious buildings from mosques to churches are being washed in lemon yellow as a symbol of peace among all religions.

“The goal was to take houses of worship in Kenya and paint them yellow in the name of love,” says Arboleda from his studio in New York City. “The idea from the beginning was to turn buildings into sculptures that speak to our shared humanity.”

But yellow? It’s a bit of an eyesore on the street. “People think our photos are Photoshopped because the yellow is so saturated,” says Arboleda, who chose the colour for its brightness and warmth. “‘Optimistic yellow’ is the paint name.”

It all started in 2015, when Arboleda was in Nairobi for an artist residency. He has been making public art since 2006 and is best known for his pink balloon project, used as a symbol of peace in Kabul after a Taliban attack in 2013. Arboleda met Nabila Alibhai, the founder of In Commons, a civic engagement organisation.

He was inspired by Barack Obama’s visit to Nairobi in August 2015 – which a CNN journalist said was potentially dangerous, labelling east Africa “a hotbed of terror”. The Twitter hashtag #someonetellcnntrended for days ahead of the US president’s visit, criticising the news network, until a CNN executive flew to Nairobi to apologise for publishing the article.

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