Fish Bowls and Tightropes

6 Feb

 I am a fish without my fish bowl and without my maji. The bowl is the world I have been contained in for 23 years and the water is what I learned to swim in…both gone…or rather my fish bowl is now in the shape of the country of Kenya and who knows what I am immersed in, but whatever it is- the ways I learned to swim don’t work the same here.

            Beginning a sustainable group of artists was a knew thing in the first place, but then throwing myself into a new culture changes the rules that I know, makes me uncertain, adds communication confusion, ect. On the flip side, though, although you may think it is me doing this work in Kenya, I am afraid you are all mistaken… there are so many people that are behind just the Art from Below network of artists in Kibera that I cannot possibly be the face that represents the work that is snowballing here. Because of so much uncertainty, each day I step carefully on a tightrope of wisdom, prayer, much counsel, and many meetings with the artists in Kibera. I am completely dependent on my neighbors and friends here in Kenya- surrounding me, supporting me, encouraging me every day. They are the face of what is happening here, and are holding my every step. I think I can take full credit for the screw-ups but they deserve full credit for the successes… because it’s really them that are doing this.

      I cannot encapsulate everything that is brewing, but each day this last week more and more- pole pole- fell into place. Tuesday’s leadership meeting involved much more talking from the other leaders rather than myself, and at the end of the meeting duties were divided between all five of us who have accepted this responsibility. The week prior we had gone to the Go Down Art Center to talk to a professional photographer and from this meeting the artists had organized for this man to come to our side of town on Thursday to walk and take pictures in Kibera. So Thursday’s gathering was an exciting modge-podge of artists, 5 cameras, and chai. After introductions they headed into Kibera, walking alongside Ananias ( )- showing him their world and observing how he captures reality through a lens. I prepared the chai the Kenyan way all by myself (first time!) and enjoyed hearing the artists share their observations and thoughts on the photography walk afterward- gathered around a table with our chai and mandazi in hand. Next week we will project the photos and have an informal critique.

      Also, just today, I am so happy to say that a group of Art from Below artists came together to brighten a soccer field in the middle of the slum- with just paint brushes and paint. George, a graffiti artist, designed the mural within the theme of peace and after letting the background coat dry from yesterday the rest of the artists took George’s idea and painted it on the stone we had painted the week before. They have taken pictures that I will post soon, but all I can say for now is they are ready to do amazing things, these artists in Kibera.


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