Slum art festival attracts thousands

Art

Slum art festival attracts thousands


Warembo Wasanii founder Joan Otieno in her new space in Ngomongo, Nairobi. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

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Summary

  • The thriving informal settlement, nestled in the heart of Nairobi’s industrial area, is where one of the world’s most renowned Kenyan artists, Shabu Mwangi, chose to establish the Wajukuu Art Center in 2003.
  • When BDLife Arriving at the third day of the Feast, we counted at least a thousand mainly children just as enthusiastic as they were to be at the start of the feast.

Thousands of children, artists and other adults flocked to Mukuru Lunga Lunga to attend the Wajukuu Slum Art Festival over the weekend leading up to the New Year.

The thriving informal settlement, nestled in the heart of Nairobi’s industrial area, is where one of the world’s most renowned Kenyan artists, Shabu Mwangi, chose to establish the Wajukuu Art Center in 2003.

Shabu was not working alone. He was with other artists Ngugi Waweru and Joseph Weche Waweru, among others, who had attended art schools established all around the slums by a Catholic nun, Sister Mary.

Initially, Wajukuu was created especially for emerging local artists so that they could share their knowledge and experience to grow artistically together. But then they found more interest in the neighborhood kids who were initially kept away.

But the kids persisted, and eventually Shabu and his team decided to create the Wajukuu Art Club for toddlers to come and draw and paint. Then came music, dancing, and even teaching kids to create their own instruments, some of which appeared on stage with the kids from the Art Club performing at the Feast.

But that was only when there was a break in the performances of dozens of other musicians who had come from all over the local informal settlements to take the stage and entertain the largest audience ever assembled at Mukuru Lunga Lunga.

When BDLife Arriving at the third day of the Feast, we counted at least a thousand mainly children just as enthusiastic as they were to be at the start of the feast.

“We left the musical side of the program to Majeshi, [two rappers] who invited musicians, dancers and acrobats to perform at the festival, ”says Shabu.

But in addition to music and dancing, he says there was a feast as a dozen neighborhood parent groups helped whip up a storm of chapati and rice served with a mash of potatoes, green peas and a little meat.

When asked how they could feed all these children, he simply replied that it had happened, much like Jesus had five loaves of bread and two fish, but somehow he did. miraculously was able to feed 5,000 men plus women and children.

“But the Festival wasn’t just about food and entertainment; Shabu said as he took a brief moment to discuss the events of the weekend. “We also planted trees and taught children the importance of planting trees to reduce climate change and save the planet,” he adds.

“We also showed them how to prepare the soil,” he adds, not to mention the obvious point that the soil in their area is mixed with rocks and other debris, so soil preparation is very involved.

Fashion show

The day we attended the Festival, the next act was Warembo Wasanii, the girl collective created by Joan Otieno to rehabilitate young women and girls in the streets and in art.

“We collect and recycle waste from the Dandora landfill and turn it into trendy art,” she said just after escorting a dozen girl models, ages eight to fifteen, onto the stage where they showed their clothes. handmade outfits from the packaging of everything. from Colgate toothpaste to Ketepa tea.

The Warembo fashion show was yet another revelation of the creativity hidden in the so-called slums that Wajukuu operates.

Further evidence of this was in the new and expansive Wajukuu Art Center, where there was an exhibition of recent works by half a dozen artists from Wajukuu. They included Shabu, Ngugi Wawere and Joseph Waweru as well as Fresha Njeri, Lazarus Thumbi and Muturi Mutugi.

This was already the third exhibition organized by Shabu at the new art center in Wajukuu and he hopes that in the future it will become an exhibition place for other young Kenyan artists.

Meanwhile, during the festival, the art center became a space where children were invited to come and create mural graffiti on the walls, which was another interactive aspect of the party that the children enthusiastically embraced.

But where one could most easily see the success of the Wajukuu Art Festival was by standing in the middle of the tents for just a moment, the speakers playing booming hip hop tunes and seeing limitless white plastic chairs occupied by happy local children. From there, the infectious enthusiasm of the children was immediately felt.

Even on the last day of the festivities, the children are still hot, infatuated with the sense of their importance. It is, of course, a mission of Wajukuu, to raise children and educate them through art.

The Festival received support from the German Embassy, ​​the Goethe Institute and Documenta, another German artistic organization.


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Reggie S. Williams