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Youth organization building peace bridge through art

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he power of performing arts to transform societies is often overlooked and underutilized. But an emerging youth group has found a way to blend their artistic flair and social good, while at the same time keeping the youth off the streets, where life is harsh and unforgiving.

The Slum Sanaa is an organization on a mission to discover, nature and promote artistic talents. It aims to release the full potential of the members by providing various avenues in which to express themselves artistically.  The Community Based Organization (C.B.O) is based in Huruma and Baraka Za Ibrahim children’s centre in Kibera slums. The two centres not only serve as podiums for artistes to express their art, but also a breeding ground for future artistes.

Boys and girls aged 9-18 years have different classes in the evenings and weekends. The classes include dance, guitar, singing, rapping, bead work, painting, photography and other different forms of art.

On my visit to the centre at Huruma in Eastlands, Nairobi, I am captivated by the graffiti art forms both inside and outside the building. The awesome artistic display reveals the love of music and the fusion between our traditional cultural music and the modern beat. I marvel at the creativity displayed on the walls while looking at the awesome necklaces and rings made mostly of improvised materials. A common trend I observe is that the jewellery has a traditional African blend on it where some are decorated by bottle tops.

The community art centre uses the mediums of music, dance, drama, and the visual arts to convey information to the community, with the bigger message of promoting peace, unity, reconciliation, understanding and national Healing between slum-dwellers.

Huruma and Kibera bore the brunt of inter-ethnic tension during the post-election violence in 2007/2008.

Mr. Simon Maranga, the chairman of Slum Sanaa says the centre has an existing structure of membership open to everyone regardless of tribe, religion, race or other affiliations.

Since 2008, Slum Sanaa has been holding an annual slum festival. The festival is a celebration of different forms of art including music, dance and fashion show. Over 60 slum-based artistes have been performing and showcasing their work in these festivals.

This year’s festival is scheduled to be held in December at Ruaraka Sports Grounds off Thika road. Slum Sanaa has also partnered with Nokia Research Africa (NORAD) in research work on the influence of mobile technology and music in slums and its impact on artists and the community. This resulted in the production of a report detailing profiles of participating young artists as a means of marketing and led to other partnership assignments.

In spite of the immense potential of the group, they face several challenges.

“We lack finances to acquire the necessary resources needed to sustain this project, but somehow we still get through. Another challenge is the lack of space, our rented premises here really limit us because most of the times, different units need to learn and train at the same time. We also face the challenge of making the community believe in art and also believe that art can sustain a living so that they can support us in our call,” says Billy Kololo, the publicity and marketing director

In spite of the challenges stemming from the fact that the centre is self funded, the members of Slum Sanaa continue to do what they love doing.

Watch Slum Sanaa documentary.

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