Road Safety - #ArtforRoadSafety: an epic community art challenge to build road safety awareness
A viral campaign rolled out across social networks and led by three artists from Egypt, Senegal and Uganda in a creative challenge that sees young people working to raise awareness of safer driving practices in Africa.
Road accidents are the leading cause of death among young people aged 5 to 29 both throughout the world and in Africa. Yet despite how pressing the issue is, raising awareness of road safety has only achieved so much. “They aren’t responding to traditional prevention campaigns,” notes Floor Lieshout, executive director of the NGO Youth for Road Safety (YOURS). “In order to feel engaged and change their behaviors, these young people need to tackle prevention themselves, feeling free to express themselves and discuss these issues with their peers, in their own words and preferred ways of communicating.”
When creativity goes viral
The ground-breaking #ArtforRoadSafety initiative sets out to achieve just this. “Launched in Egypt, Senegal and Uganda, the campaign breaks with conventional communication,” explains campaign coordinator Manpreet Darroch. “We’re tapping into artistic expression and viral social networks to make it happen.” As a YOURS partner, the TotalEnergies Corporate Foundation is sponsoring the initiative. #ArtforRoadSafety is based on a viral challenge: in each of the three countries, a young artist and influencer is given free rein to create an artwork inspired by a key national road safety issue. Their work (dance, art, mural) is then posted on social media complete with a challenge: followers are invited to rework the art giving it their own stamp or twist, before sharing it. The best videos are selected every week, and their makers rewarded with motorbike helmets, bike safety kits, and other goodies.
Campaigning for safer roads
“This allows young people to create their very own prevention messages and share them using their own channels,” says Floor Lieshout. Kick-started last July, the campaign is backed by TotalEnergies’ local road safety partners and underpinned by the expertise and platforms offered up by Global Youth Coalition for Road Safety, a YOURS initiative that encompasses nearly 650 members across 101 countries. “People around the world took part in the challenge, in Africa and beyond. There’s a huge Instagram following,” adds Manpreet Darroch. “The campaign is over, but the viral effect lives on!”
Mural painting by Elna2Ash, Egypt
Elna2Ash: graffiti against speeding
In Egypt, speeding is the number-one factor at play in mortality rates among young people on the country’s roads. On July 6th, 2021, Egyptian graffiti artist Ahmed Fathy, aka Elna2Ash, kicked off the #ArtforRoadSafety challenge in the country, with the focus on speed limits. The street artist created a sweeping mural at the exit to the TotalEnergies Maadi Autostrad service station in Cairo. A video of him spraypainting his mural was shared with the hashtag #StreetsForLife.
Elna2Ash is very well-known for his downtown Cairo graffiti depicting famous Egyptian soccer player Mohamed Salah and other celebrities. “Road safety is an issue that is particularly close to my heart, because I lost a dear friend in a road accident,” he explains. “My work in this service station aims to encourage young Egyptian drivers to slow down.”
His impactful fresco shows a car crashing into a pedestrian, cut across with a slogan: Life has no reset button. Many followers reworked the design and posted their own works to encourage careful driving. “The campaign connected with its audience, reaching around 335,000 young people aged 18 to 35 on social networks,” states TotalEnergies Egypt communications director Rabab Mansour, who was responsible for overseeing the digital campaign.
Robert SSempijja: dancing for helmet wearing
In Uganda, the boda-bodas make it up as they go along. These motorbike taxi drivers ferry their passengers around with little regard for the highway code - and without wearing helmets. They are said to be involved in over 30% of fatal accidents. #ArtforRoadSafety rolled out its social media campaign across the country from July 13th to 15th 2021 in a bid to encourage bikers to keep their heads protected. Ugandan dancer Robert Ssempijja posted a video of a helmet dance he choreographed especially for the event, under the hashtags #YambalaHelmet (helmet up) and #YourHelmetYourLife, with music by hip hop artists from Youth Arts Movement Uganda, the campaign’s official partner, and rappers Vann Mesh, Ray Mc and Keen Khabed.
Choreographer and breakdancer Robert uses his art to tackle pressing social and cultural issues. “I decided to get involved with the initiative as a result of the bad experiences I’ve had with road traffic in Kampala,” he says. “My choreography is an excellent way of helping young Ugandans understand that wearing a helmet could genuinely save their life.”
Coordinated by the NGO Safe Way Right Way Uganda, the online campaign got off to a flying start. “Lots of bikers made the dance their own and posted their own videos,” explains Kenneth Mulinde, campaign coordinator for Uganda and member of the Global Youth Coalition for Road Safety. “Motorbike taxi companies SafeBoda and SotBoda got the message across even louder by getting involved. Lots of young people still can’t get the YambalaHelmet song out of their heads!”
"Young people are empowered to work to prevent, communicating amongst themselves in their own words"
Floor Lieshout, executive director of Youth for Road Safety (YOURS)
Graffiti by Zeinixx, Senegal
Zeinixx: mural-painting for speed limits
In Senegal, around 650 people die in road accidents every year. There are no speed restrictions in urban areas. Various associations are busy campaigning for 30 km/h speed limits around schools, and a law should soon be adopted to make it happen. Because slowing down means saving lives, street artist Zeinixx came up with a visual twist on a 30 km/h road sign for the #ArtforRoadSafety campaign.
Senegal’s number-one female graffiti artist Zeinixx (born Dieynaba Sidibé) is known for her frescos and murals that empower and celebrate women. Painted on a canvas outside the Maison des Cultures Urbaines, cultural hub in the capital of Dakar, her graffiti artwork was posted on social networks on July 20th 2021, under the hashtag #Love30. “There are so many road traffic accidents in urban areas,” she says. “I wanted to reach out to young people, making them aware of the dangers of speeding and helping them understand that driving carefully means looking out for others.”
The campaign was rolled out on site by Laser International, an NGO that fights for better road safety. “We launched the campaign with the support of local associations such as the pro-cycling Sama Vélo, and the Bambilor city youth group,” says director Awa Sarr. “Zeinixx’s graffiti was embraced by followers, and her message shared far and wide. Some young people dropped in to see us in person to get involved in the initiative, which was the whole point: turning young people into ambassadors of safer driving practices.”
The #ARTFORROADSAFETY campaign is: