Anyway, back to the group [Victorious Youth Group], for the past six years these guys have used discarded animal bones to make beautiful ornaments.
In their small workshop lined with fine dust one guy explained how they got started, the creative process and how they make ends meet through the jewellery they make.
It was really cool to hear how these guys support themselves and have a sense of brotherhood and fairness. For instance an artisan who has a family gets a slightly bigger share than one without and during times of low sales they let guys keep what they make from their own sales.
In any case, we moved to the sales area where I bought a lovely brown necklace! Next pit-stop was an informal school/ baby-sitting place.
A young lady [sadly, her name escapes me] had taken it upon herself to gather up all the children [both orphaned and not] who were below 6 years old and give them a place where they could learn nursery school basics.
She told us that most of the children were often either locked inside their homes while their parents or guardians when to work or they were left to wander around the slum.
Both situations had terrible consequences so she rented the space and took as many children as she could. She works with two other volunteer teachers to teach, feed and take care of the little ones. She is an orphan herself and knows all too well how easily it was for such children to be forgotten.
The centre operates on the generosity of well-wishers and every Sunday she goes around churches asking for assistance. If she comes up short on what she needs for the week’s rations, she often dips into her own pocket.
There was a long period of silence where we all glumly sat there on the small, narrow benches that creaked and dipped as they held up the unaccustomed weights.
White gunny bags cut into squares with simple arithmetic, letters of the alphabet and item association ran along the mud and cement plastered walls. It was a small, clean space filled with love and hope.
I vowed to come back.
As we slowly stumbled back to the sunny outdoors, our guide took us back to his house where everyone was asked to sign his guest book and share their thoughts. My pal kept asking me if I was ok. I was still processing things, I guess.
I think I wrote something like ‘Nimeona vile ndugu zangu wanaishi. Kenya ni yetu sote, lazima tusaidiane.’ [I have seen how my kin lives. Kenya belongs to us all, we must help each other.]
Remember when I said at the beginning how I went to the loos at Java? Well, it was packed and I didn’t get to use the facilities so I was super, duper pressed. The host’s mum took me to some 5 bob loos and as I did my thing, I kept pushing back all the negative thoughts in my mind.
I was only spending 2 minutes there, but this was what they had to deal with everyday. So when I was done I came out of the loo and thanked her.
See, that’s the thing. Everyone knows when and exactly how bad they have things. No need to remind them. Besides, I was an uninvited guest, and if I found anything out of order it was not my place to say anything, rather it was an opportunity to help fix it.
A few soft drinks later, we headed out to the last stop, the funny and talented guys at Maasai Mbili Art Studio. The studio was started by two guys Otieno and Otieno [yaaay I know their names haha]. They were sign writers who used to dress up like Maasai warriors.
They opened their studio in 2001 and now work with 6 other artists. Their work is the bomb-diggity! You just want to buy everything and put it all over your house! [p.s I took a picture of a funny painting showing cows on strike, ati ‘Eat moo chiken…and fish’ hehe, it’s my phone’s wallpaper!]
I was hopelessly curious about these guys whose talent was obvious and whose work I figured fetched quite some mullah. [Testament to the fact, two artists are currently in Sweden/other European nation and there was a Russian guy doing some documentary thingie.]
A gazillion questions later, I asked a semi-rude/semi-pertinent question… Would they ever want to open a studio elsewhere? To which one of the Otieno’s said, no, this was their home, they had a community program that helped kids understand that art was a good thing to pursue. They provided for the kids what they never had.
So, how could they walk away from that?