Inside a washroom in a university college in Nairobi is an arrow drawn on a tissue paper on the dispenser pointing to a direction that anybody who comes in to do their business would tell.
To accompany the arrow are writings in bold capital letters: ‘PULL OUT YOUR BACHELORS DEGREE HERE AND GO HOME AND DUMP IT THERE! On the same wall, somebody wrote: ‘This is where Napoleon tore his born apart.’
Usually, when a person enters the toilet and closes the door, his or her privacy starts. In fact, some people describe toilets as the only place where one can have ‘me time’, a place to think straight and sort out deep personal and emotional problems. But who are these people who lock themselves in toilets to vent off?
Timo, 45, teaches Biology at a school in Central Kenya. From drawing human reproductive organs on toilet walls, to scrawling simple quotes and vulgar stuff, Timo believes toilet graffiti is a vast canvass for educating society. In fact he sees it as a calling.
“His armpits used to stink so much that we almost suffocated whenever he bent over us while marking assignments around the class,” he recalls.
He confesses to have made sure the teacher know how nauseating his body odour was by launching a ‘smear’ campaign against him on toilet walls around the village.
“Of course, there was no way I was going to tell him his armpits were stinking like a sewer,” he says, “so I shamed him by writing about his foul smell in every toilet I could find.”
He first wrote in the gents’ washroom of the church where the teacher was an elder: “Mwalimu Juma ananuka makwapa kama skunk (teacher Juma’s armpits stink like a skunk!”
The same message was replicated on all toilets where he knew Mwalimu Juma visited. Although Mwalimu Juma or his sympathisers made spirited efforts to rub off the writings, Juma would rewrite them and recreate his teacher’s worst nightmares.
Shimonjelo, a toilet cleaner at a city university never tolerated graffiti in the toilets under his care. But that was till the creativity gurus turned their guns on him when he erased a series of adverts scribbled in one of the loos by students who offer business services in the campus.
An angry student wrote on the same wall:
“When Shimonjelo, the s**t cleaner finally retires, I will erect a monument of s**t in his honour,” read the writing done using a marker pen.
The writing attracted a conversation that watered down the insult. But underneath it, another comrade wrote: “I am sure you can build that monument alone because you poop like an elephant!”
In no time, it had become like an online blog with comments getting posted furiously as an ‘analogue’ conversation ensued:
“At least you will never be jobless because you will have created a job for yourself as a curator of your stinky monument!”
It’s interesting that that kind of communication is only restricted to public toilets; where the users are so many that it’s not easy to narrow down on the artists.