My friends from the GoDown Art Center, Jimmy Ogonga and Patrick Mukabi, are wanting to gather entries from artists around Nairobi in order to represent East Africa in an upcoming contest involving one minute films. So last week we hosted 17 artists (from Kawangware, Mathare, Kibera, and Dandora) at CTM for a 4 day filming workshop led by Jimmy and Patrick! It was awesome to see the excitement and enthusiasm that resulted from the training and opportunity for each artist to create their own unique video. Each person came up with a story line and then recruited people and props in order to film the scenes that each artist had envisioned. Once filmed, the proper equipment was brought in so that they could each edit the films! These films will be collected and submitted there will be a judging to narrow down the films and award those that represent the best of the 6 different categories of film themes. Maybe one of our artists will win!
Afrobe Media filmed and edited this video for us during the camp…
My friend, Isaac, who is in charge of finding and organizing events for Arts from Below found us a place to paint a mural. Talk of doing this began about a month ago when Isaac first discovered this place, Slum Soccer Field, deep within, a maze of dirt paths and little homes cemented to the side of a slope. The guy in charge was enthusiastic about getting a mural about peace put on the stone wall at the far end of the field. We had some leftover paint from the Diaspora of Hope Art Camp last December, which I nabbed from the Inspiration Center, so we just needed a few more cans and we were set to go! First came the undercoat… we headed out one thursday evening so that people wouldn’t kick up so much dirt on the wall it was drying (its dry season right now). We had a great time painting that first evening, even had many children come and help us paint. Only at the very end of our painting time, a group of guys started giving Isaac and some of the other guys in our group a hard time. They were demanding money, going on the assumption that I (since I’m white and sometimes people see money attached) was funding this mural project and that I was paying all the artists that were working. This was discouraging, personally and for the group. The guys were able to talk them down enough to let us leave without a fight but finishing our mural by the end of that same week was a stolen hope. The artists were discouraged, but at least we had accomplished painting the white, which is what we had set out to do.
For myself, sometimes I forget how much I stand out here. I feel so comfortable here and lose myself in exploration, relationships, adventures, ect. that I quickly forget the stark contrast… purely skin deep, and yet there is so much attached to my skin color. Sometimes I am saddened when my presence in a situation, such as this one, actually hurts more than helps. I totally feel loved and accepted by my friends in Kibera, but to those who I don’t know and don’t know me- I am first- a white person. I could easily be picked out in a crowd as opportunity, money, easy target for pickpockets, ect. But, once again, now that I have become so comfortable in Kenya and Kibera especially, I am usually oblivious to how differently people view me compared to others walking around on the street. I am only pulled back to sad reality in situations like the mural.
So mural painting was postponed for 2 weeks while Isaac talked to the guy in charge of the soccer field and we brainstormed about how to befriend this gang in the slum. In the end we are still working on the befriend the gang part and resorted to getting security from the guy in charge of the soccer field. When the artists met on Saturday to paint I was actually teaching the sculpture class so I couldn’t be there but another painter, George, was there to help those unfamiliar with mural painting. The artists spent the whole day working on that mural, till about 4. Many children came to help paint and the mural spilled over from the stone wall and onto the mabati (remember that word??)! The process was just as meaningful to the children and the artists as was the finished painting!
When we visited the Go-Down Art Center in Nairobi a few weeks ago the artists were introduced to a photographer from the Ivory Coast, Ananias Leki Dago.(http://www.creativeafricanetwork.com/person/8754 )He works with an old-school camera (yes, there is actual film in the camera!) and works in all black and white. As we passed around a book of his photography I was impressed by how artistically planned out and calculated each photo seemed to be- so much movement, mingled with a collage of overlapping pattern and shape, interest angles, and many times you are left with questions even after staring and studying each photo for a long while. His photos were intriguing.
Two weeks ago we invited this man to come to our side of town, in Kibera on Thursday, to walk and take pictures of the lives and homes of people in the slum. Thursday’s gathering involved a group of very excited artists, 5 cameras, and sitting around a table together sharing chai after the walk was finished. Many took pictures of the Kibera community from artistic angles and of people who were many times caught unaware. During the Kibera walk, as well as last week’s photo critique, Ananias’s offered valuable insight and perspective into his thought process as he looks through the camera lens. He seems to be most fascinated by the mabati… anybody else a little lost with that word? Well don’t ask this group of artists, because when I spoke up everybody just looked at me and laughed! Apparently it was a hilarious question, like who wouldn’t know what mabati is?? Anyways, it’s the corrugated metal rooftops that shield people from the rains, and then capture the sun’s heat like the inside of an oven!
Anyways, in addition to Ananias’s expertise and skill, this man is awesomely down-to-earth and seems to love hanging out with our corky group. He invited the artists to his photography presentation at Kuona Trust Arts Center (http://www.kuonatrust.org/) on Monday and now he is returning again tomorrow to “talk photography” and then “do photography” with us in Kibera!
Come walk around Kibera with us!…
This Monday at Goldmines I rushed into the house quick and was brainstorming in my head about what would be good for the artists in the painting club to work on. Then I realized that up in my room I had brought many cards and postcards of artworks, which I intended to send as letters but these are also perfect for us to do Master Copy paintings from! So I scooped up Monet, Cassat, Van Gogh, Matisse, ect. and headed off. I think the guys really enjoyed this excersize and challenge to learn from a well-know artist by mimicing their artwork. Each picked a different painting and then fir the next 2 hours these guys were pretty much silent in concentration. It was great to see their own styles come out and hear their enthusiasm over the finished pieces. I think they will end up repeating this with another painting on Wednesday.