Art is Activism: Kenyan artists for Medicine Equality Now!

The SANAA CENTER Artist Collective in Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya has used graffiti, music, spoken word, poetry and dance to communicate the problem with patents – and why the world needs Medicine Equality Now!

“We all have an equal right to survive,” says Waweru Wa Muthoni, co-founder of the SANAA CENTER.

“When we received the brief from the Make Medicines Affordable campaign, we learned that where you live affects your chance of accessing medicines – whether it is HIV, TB or cancer treatment, or a COVID-19 vaccine. As a collective we did not previously know that pharmaceutical corporations control the supply of essential drugs, or the obscene amounts of profit they make.”

“We also discovered that it doesn’t have to be this way. That the Kenyan Government, and all governments around the world, have options available to them to stand up to pharma – we wanted to share the knowledge within our community, and demonstrate public support for the government to take action.”

Muthoni’s stage name is ANTHEM REPUBLIC, he’s a spoken word artist.

The work created includes graffiti by E-bruh and Odaddo; spoken word by Anthem Republiq; music by Micko Migra; and dance by the Smart Brain Dancers.


“Bei ya madawa ikipanda watu wanashukishwa 6feet under”: when the medical price goes up, humans go down 6feet under.

The collective performed a live event at the Arts centre in July, and now their materials are being shared globally through the Medicine Equality Now! campaign.


Watch now this video made by Kid Oktober, featuring the following artists: Anthem Republiq, Mikro Migra, E-brah, Mumbuh and Ian Gwagi.


Fighting for the equal right to survive in Kenya

The Kenya Legal and Ethical Issues Network on HIV and AIDS (KELIN) is Make Medicines Affordable’s campaign partner in Kenya. KELIN has been advocating for removal of intellectual property (IP) barriers and for access to medicines. Their work focuses on revision of laws and policies (current focus being on the Intellectual Property Bill 2020); training of communities and running advocacy campaigns, as well as awareness/sensibilization actions targeting government officials.

For instance, early in 2021, KELIN, in collaboration with CEHURD, and with support from Aidsfonds, held a regional awareness forum on IP and access to medicines targeting both government and civil society. At the end of the forum, there was a consensus statement on the need for #vaccinesequity; greater utilization of flexibilities in the TRIPS Agreement; bolstering local manufacturing of essential medicines – all aimed at ensuring the region has uninterrupted access to essential medicines.

Timothy Wafula is a health and human rights lawyer and a Program Manager at KELIN. Wafula attended the artist collective’s live event:

“People need to know why essential medicines are inaccessible. They need to know the driving force behind exorbitant prices paid to access life-saving medication. They need to know that this should not always be the case. That it is unacceptable. People need to know they can demand for change, as a matter of right. As such, we need more initiatives that sustain community conversations, sensitizations and mobilizations on removal of IP barriers to ensure access to medicines.”

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