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! The process was just as meaningful to the children and the artists as was the finished painting!