Written by: Nigel Williams
It was nearly a month ago that I began the 24 hour trek to Nairobi, Kenya with a group of fellow sound engineers, musicians, songwriters, and visual artists. None of us had made such a trip, but we were very eager and excited to learn and teach in a community that is rapidly emerging, but is still vastly different from our own. Our group of artists arrived with the intention to teach new strategies and techniques to help the local community enhance their own artistic abilities, whether it was through better sound quality in their music, more affordable art mediums, or even utilizing their own resources to create functional pottery. We went to teach, but returned having learned so much ourselves.
Nairobi is the capital of Kenya and also its largest city by population. In the Nairobi metro area there are over 6.5 million residents. Nairobi is one of the fastest growing cities in Africa, with nearly a quarter of the population living in poverty. The wealth gaps are becoming more prominent as the city continues to grow. Nairobi is home to the largest slum in Africa, Kibera, which sits right outside of the city center. Amongst and adjacent to the miles of tin-roofed, stick and mud built homes in the slums, there are prominent gated communities, luxurious high rise apartments, and even affluent golf clubs. Our group taught at a facility in Lavington, which is a suburb to the northwest of Nairobi.
Through the Spear Africa Foundation, we were introduced to Wanyama Ogutu, a local art teacher and researcher, who helped us connect with artists from all demographics to attend a variety of art workshops we were hosting. The workshops included grade school teachers, tutors, college art students / researchers, art professionals, and gallery operators throughout the greater Nairobi area and an additional PhD student from Nigeria. It was a pleasure to see all of these people work together to enhance and expand upon each other’s varying talents. In the process they took the initiative to develop their own art shows.
At the conclusion of the event, many artists left with completed pieces as well as materials to take back to their respective classrooms and studios. Since the trip, I have been receiving multiple pictures of how they have used many of the techniques and materials to produce their own art.
This opportunity to serve and learn was more impactful than I could have imagined. Volunteering in an international community has only sparked even more passion about doing my best to serve at home. Living for meaningful moments like these makes everything worthwhile.
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