21 Aug “Slum” Art Defies Assumptions
By this point in the trip we are night bus prostars. After a scrumptious pizza dinner, the crew jumped on another big clunker and we were off to Nairobi. After our post-bus morning nap, we jumped onto a #8 matatu towards Kibera, Kenya’s most famous informal settlement.
We are privileged to learn about this famous place through the work of some incredible visual artists. The work at Maasai Mbili M2 Art cooperative is breathtaking. Each artist has their own individual style, but you can see how they influence each other. The political and social currents that run through their work are palpable. These are people who speak through their art, and their voice is loud and clear.
During post-election violence Solo 7 a former M2 member was running around Kibera trying to dissuade looting and arson by painting “Peace Wanted Alive” on already burnt structures and on the walls that line the entrance of the slum. After the violence subsided, and tensions in the settlement were still high among neighbors of different tribes, other M2 members started painting with children as a form of guerilla art therapy. Solo 7 just opened an art school for children in the community to make up for cut programming in schools. The talent, work ethic, and empathy of the men and woman at M2 are truly inspirational.
After a day of exploring Nairobi center and delving into Kenyan news we visited Mwelu Foundation in Mathare. The team here shared their personal stories as photographers in the slum and then shared some insights on keeping up a community library. We watched a video made by children who are trained in filmmaking. The video highlighted some of the fears that children in Mathare have to face everyday. We were glad for the chance to meet this hard working crew and see their work coming to fruition.
Trip Leader, East Africa Politics and Perceptions