Outsiders Krew

Outsiders Krew

Share the Word — The Outsiders Krew are using street art to brighten up marginalised communities around the world.

Amidst the flare smoke in the ultra’s stand of hardcore fans at their local football club in Caen, France, artists Seb Touissant and Spag formed a friendship that would take them across the globe. After cycling around the world together, the street artist and the photographer realised the places that had interested them most weren’t the tourist traps, but the villages, industrial areas and poor neighbourhoods they had travelled through.

They hit upon the idea of Share the Word, an art project that visits marginalised communities to work with local people and bring colour to their neighbourhoods with street art. Spending a couple of weeks in each community, Seb paints words requested by residents on their houses and shops while Spag documents the project with his camera. The pair have so far visited Kampung Bayur, in Jakarta, Indonesia and Mukuri in Nairobi, Kenya and are just off to Nepal.

Who are the Outsiders Krew and what exactly do you do? 
We are an art collective made up of just two members: Seb Toussaint, a graffiti writer from England and France, and Spag, a French photographer. We’ve never been art school but learned on the streets, by travelling and being part of MNK96, a hardcore football ultras group from Caen that we are still involved with today. That’s where we started designing, using spray cans and doing photography and film.

We also have Theo Davies, a young music producer and drummer from the MNK96 who gives us a hand when necessary. We work together and mix different art forms. We’re currently working on a project called Share The Word, in which we go to different marginalised communities around the world and paint words given to us by residents on their walls.

Why did you start the Share The Word project?
In 2011-12 we cycled around the world, going through all sorts of fascinating places. We experimented with art along the way, doing painting, photography, film and writing. By the time we returned, we realised we had learned a lot about the world and about ourselves. We realised that the touristy areas were often less interesting than other places, such as small villages, poor communities or industrial areas. We wanted to go back to these often forgotten places to interact with local communities through art.

What challenges have you faced in bringing it to life?
The communities we chose to work in can be very challenging environments. We worked in Mukuru, Kenya, which like many African communities suffering the effects of poverty can be a very tough place to live in. Several gangs compete to control the area and shootings are part of every day life. AIDS is also a huge problem and many people don’t have enough to eat. Most of the community accepted us and were very friendly but we had a few problems with some people who had lost hope, such as drug users. We had to be careful, respectful, and ensure that people with influence among the community would help us stay safe.

How do you hope it will have an impact?
Graffiti is made to attract attention and stand out in the urban environment. We are using this power to focus on what people want to say. We bring graffiti to the community, and we take home photos, stories and videos. We think Share The Word can act as a bridge between a marginalised community and the outside world. We’ve already seen it happen. In Indonesia our work made the national newspapers and suddenly people became interested in the neighbourhood and came to see the graffiti. In truth, the neighbourhood has always been interesting, but most people, including journalists, completely ignore the slums.

What do you make of the current state of street art?
There is a lot of art being made on the streets all over the world, even in places where you wouldn’t expect it. People are experimenting, trying new mediums and techniques to push graffiti further. We feel that globally there is more and more street art, but it’s hard for us to say because we are only 26 years old and have been travelling intensively for just the last seven years or so. We’ve seen brilliant pieces as well as terrible murals, but they are always interesting to see because they say a lot about the place and its people, its influences, its football clubs, its political parties, its wars, issues, etc.

Do you believe in the power of art to affect change?
Of course! Art invites us to think, dream, imagine and react; all of which are necessary to inspire change. Art can play an important part in the process of change. Unlike humans, animals don’t change like we do, they don’t pass on knowledge and thoughts to the next generations. They don’t gather to think about how they are going to organise their society, and they don’t make art, either.

What other street art projects or artists do you take inspiration from?
We take inspiration from a variety of artists working in very different ways, from Albert Camus to Cartier Bresson, JR and Asghar Farhadi.

What did you personally take away from your experience in Kenya?
People in Mukuru where we were working have so much hope and energy. Their lives are very tough, and often short. There are some who have given up under the very difficult circumstances, but the majority fight hard to improve life for their community. They were really inspiring people to work with.

How can people support Share The Word?
After we come back from Nepal in June we’ll launch a crowdfunding campaign to support our project. People can simply ‘share the word’ by sharing the videos we’ve already put online.

What’s next for the Outsiders Krew?
We’re off to Nepal in a few days time and after that somewhere else this summer for our fourth episode. In Autumn we’ll be working on a show somewhere in Europe.

Find out more about the project at Outsiders Krew or watch Share the Word: Episode 1 – Jakarta, below.

Check out Share the Word: Episode 2 – Nairobi.