Artivism in Dakar, Senegal

AeroSoul’s Refa1 with a local artist at Festigraff International Spraycan artist gathering in Dakar, Senegal last year.

This week’s #travelthrowbackthursday #ttbt comes from Oakland’s favorite son, Refa1 . We randomly met at an activist party called The Bay Area Leftist Lounge at The Noodle Factory in West Oakland, California about a decade ago–then, we held a spontaneous tailgate party outside this event a la “a party within a party” style LOL! Since I was not from the Bay Area, at the time, little did I know how influential Refa1 is: apparently, he’s a pillar in the local HipHop culture movement. I recognized that after our meeting and followed his art-ivist work ever since. In his website, he describes the source of his countless talents:

A lifetime of involvement in HipHop culture via the Universal Zulu Nation combined with his radical political awareness, has translated into a successful career as a HipHop Calligrapher, muralist, illustrator, activist, and educator.


In alignment with his life-long mission of cultivating art for community building, he traveled to Dakar, Senegal last year for the international Festigraff Festival (check photo with Nelson Mandela above). In what he describes as a “homecoming,” Refa1 communed with the local artists, especially aerosol writers, who are at the forefront of a grassroots hip-hop culture movement in Dakar. He also collaborated with international artists coming from the African continent (Benin, Burkina Faso, Gabon, Kenya, Togo, etc.), South America (Venezuela, Bolivia and Brazil), Europe (France), and USA. For more photos from Dakar, scroll down for Refa1’s photo mosaic.

In this festival, Refa1 represented the art collective, AeroSoul:

AeroSoul is a community institution and cultural resource that documents, promotes and develops the legacy and rich history of the African/African diaspora’s writing culture commonly known as Aerosol Art or Spray Can Art. From ancient Kemetic (Egyptian) pyramid texts and Dogon (Mali) wall drawings to the wall paintings of (Haitian) Vodun temples; AeroSoul draws upon the legacy of African/African diasporic writing and literary narrative that is displayed on walls and architecture. AeroSoul’s international outreach and influence extends to Africa, Europe and Hawaii by collaborating with and showing the work of artists from all parts of Africa and the African diaspora. AeroSoul’s artists create murals in the HipHop aesthetic that advocate for self-determination in struggling Black and Brown communities.


This coming April, Refa1 and AeroSoul will go back to Senegal for this year’s Festigraff Festival. They are currently fundraising $ 5,000 for this trip, in order to cover the following:

  • airfare travel expenses
  • the purchase of art materials such as respirators
  • brushes and paints that will be donated to African artists at the Festigraff International Festival who don’t easily have access to such materials

They need to fundraise by March 25th, before they go to Africa in April. To contribute to their international community work, please consider contributing via:

In the fundraising page, AeroSoul shares its lifetime calling as artists of the African diaspora:

As artists who have worked with youth in both the US, the African diaspora and Africa our mission is to bring the value of our teaching and artistic skills in collaborative projects across African and African diasporic lines. Garnering the funds to go to Africa will make our work as ambassadors of aerosol art more powerful because we can arrive with the gift of material resources as well as our exemplary skills as artists. We’ve spent a lifetime acquiring the skills to create collaborative projects and those people who donate to our campaign will assist us with realizing a priceless teaching and creative experience in Africa. 

If you have a travel adventure you’d like to share with us, email us at: plateandpassport(at)gmail(dot)com.

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