Brace Yourselves, It’s About to Get Dirty!

Literally. Nairobi, for the better part of the last 4 years has been relatively clean. Not to the standards we expect, but trust me it has been clean!

I’ve always wondered who “Flossin Mauwano” is because he must be the one who started the earliest. Spray painting estate walls all over. But this was just the beginning of what will be a poster nightmare for the city.

I was walking past Technical University of Kenya, some time late in 2016. It was campaign season for the Student Council. Behold, they had painted all their walls with posters of aspirants running for various posts. This you could say is usual, but something else caught my eye. It was the road and the walkway. They had literally been carpeted by the posters i.e. half of Workshop Road. It was an eyesore to say the least.

The Awakening of the Presses

The Heidelberg Speedmasters are popular printing machines in the printing industry in Nairobi. The SM 52 and SM 74 will print 15000 sheets or impressions per hour at A3 and A2 size respectively. Most of these machines are used and some have seen over 60 million sheets pass through them.

With the primaries just about done, we are hot in the middle of campaign season. My compatriots in the printing industry have serviced their machines thoroughly as business is about to get real… and so is the dirt that comes with it.

Printing has been around for Centuries, in fact, it started with Woodblock Printing around 200 AD. Yes, technology that could be slightly younger than Jesus! But it was this German by the name Johannes Gutenberg who set the pace for the printing industry in the year 1440 AD. Then we had lithography in 1796, the rotary press in 1843, and the most important of them all, the offset printing press in 1875, which is being used to date. I had written some time back on offset printing and you can get to learn more on it here.

Take a second to imagine, technology that is more than a century old is still being used today, at least its core concept. It is much like the car industry that hasn’t changes much except for the recent electric and self-driving cars, the core technology is still the pistons that drive millions of those machines out there. For offset printing, it is the plate and offset cylinders that are the core part of it.

Let the Posters Roll Out

I can almost hear one impression after the next on the machines. I foresee a surging demand in paper that will push up printing prices marginally. I see machines that have been dormant for the better part of the decade firing up again.

I see the aspirants lining up, “give me 20,000 copies, 100,000 copies”. I see them going to paint the walls with ugliness, ugliness that will hopefully fade away some three months after the General Election. So devastating is their reach that I see the posters on my way home on a neighbours wooden fence. Will they take to people’s gates (Especially those with natural fences)? They are on drainage culverts, on electricity poles, on top of other aspirants’ posters, on bridges… will they place them on the roads like the students at TUK?

Apparently, there’s a cleaning fee supposed to be paid at the Nairobi County offices. I hope they do pay, and they should brace themselves for some serious amount of cleaning!

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