Senegalese artists and the UN fight together against COVID-19


It took a day and half and fifty cans of spraypaint for Senegal’s RBS Crew, a collaborative of graffiti artists, to complete the 5-metre long mural depicting the barrier gestures against COVID 19.

The bright colours make it impossible to miss says Madzoo, a long time member and artist of the crew. “You can say a lot with just a picture. We’re all going through a difficult time right now. People are receiving a lot of information about staying healthy, but for the population who is illiterate in this country - a picture is the fastest way to reach them,” he said.


Beau Graff, Xalima & Madzoo from RBS CREW at the UN RCO office in Dakar, Senegal

Like many artists around the world today putting their talents towards fighting the health pandemic, the street artists were invited to spread their message at the UN building in Dakar that houses the Resident Coordinator's Office, UNDP, UNFPA and UNDSS.

RBS Crew’s goal has been to spread awareness through street art since they formed 12 years ago, says Beau Graff, one of the three artists that worked on the piece. “We've socially conscious artists so we always strive to raise awareness of current events through pictures,” he said.

The striking 2m tall artwork depicts a face covered with a facemask, a hand reaching for a tissue, while another pair of hands lather up white soap suds on a background of rich blues and purples, before the final scene of a boy coughing into his elbow. The fluorescent green slogan takes centre-stage: And Xeex Covid19, which means Let’s fight COVID19 together, in Wolof.

Representing the Regional Director, Mr. Antonio Mazzitelli, who was not in the country, Aliou Sall, from the UNODC Regional Office, congratulated the artists for their collaboration and dynamic contribution.


 Aliou Sall representing UNODC regional office at the unveiling of the mural


"UNODC and all United Nations agencies will continue to work hand in hand with Senegal to do everything necessary to see this virus eradicated and to keep the population protected," said Mr. Sall. "The mural really stands out. It is an excellent initiative and I think it will be very effective," he added, while emphasizing that "the barrier gestures must be followed and respected because the fight against this virus is everyone's business."

It’s a proud moment for Xalima, the third artist who worked on the mural. “Creating this mural in front of the United Nations building is one of the collaborations that will remain with us. Our work is finally being recognized for its true worth,” he said.

For Madzoo collaborating with the UN helps spread the message further, he says, and helps protect his family and community. “In my neighborhood we see that people are listening and are following the rules. Illustrating the rules just makes them easier to understand and doesn’t leave anyone behind. It’s for everyone’s benefit,” he added.

The United Nations in Senegal has announced funding of approximately 121 billion FCFA (USD $203,805,926) to assist Senegal in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Of this amount, USD $156,991,740 has already been mobilized by the various United Nations entities in Senegal.


UN building in Dakar that houses the Resident Coordinator's Office, UNDP, UNFPA and UNDSS