Kenya’s ambitious new weapon of art endorses social change



Sun, 22 Oct 2017 - 05:09 GMT


Sun, 22 Oct 2017 - 05:09 GMT

Street Art in Jericho (Photo Courtesy of Robert Mũnũku)

Street Art in Jericho (Photo Courtesy of Robert Mũnũku)

CAIRO – 22 October 2017: A great home to nature and wildlife, Kenya has often been halted by conflict among other countries this century; nevertheless, Kenyans vowed to craft peaceful methodologies for a prosperous community. One of the troupes striving to empower Africans is Mau Mau Collective and their only weapon is art.

Mau Mau Collective is named after an actual revolutionary movement that fought for Kenya’s independence and sought to topple a colonial government in the past. Established in 2014, the troupe seeks to encourage African artists to create a vast network of visual artists and filmmakers among others. These works are generated by not only Africans; but also other artists from the continent.

The pan- African troupe/movement of 200 members is on the constant increase and is keen to collaborate with artists who are passionate in using their art to promote social causes and call upon change. Societal issues are expressed through an array of art formats including fine art, graffiti, film, and performances.

“The Mau Mau Collective, the movement of today seeks to topple neo-colonialism and capitalism through art in a battle less physical and more ideological,” Robert Mũnũku, founder of Mau Mau Collective told Egypt Today.

Mũnũku also added that the initiative encourages creative education and creative economy where artists are advocated to gain financial independence in their craft.

Photo Courtesy of Mau Mau Collective official Facebook page

He seeks to have a great part in deviating countries from capitalist-led mindsets, quoting the famous Thomas Sankara who said; “Those who colonized us before are the same people lending us money now.” Mũnũku confirms that that this is the irony he seeks to diminish through the initiative.

The visions of Mau Mau Collective further revolve around the future and youth, who Mũnũku thinks should be leading nations worldwide; including the African youth movement. These goals are tackled through creating content addressing society under what Mũnũku describes as “Art for Social Change.”

Originally an artist, Mũnũku stated that everyone should partake in the initiative, including him, as he dedicates part of his time to teach art to children. These members of change in Mau Mau Collective work on implementing the movement’s approaches through focusing on film, visual art and performances.

“These three areas are where artists engage and create content. Mau Mau has in-house content such as films and also works with artists within its networks enabling them to propel their work further. We are in the process of creating an endowment where artists can channel required resources to create art that speaks change,” Mũnũku explained.

Robert Mũnũku (Photo Courtesy of Robert Mũnũku)

The young initiative has had an impact more than other organizations in the country that have been operating for years, according to Mũnũku, as it continues to artistically challenge mindsets aspiring to develop.

Awarded the 2016 East Africa Hub Grant - The Pollination Project, Mau Mau Collective owns a vivid spot in street art where it has recently established a piece of street art openly drawn in a residential area in Jericho Nairobi as part of a special art series.

“For me these particular series, done in Jericho Nairobi, have been the most intimate yet. In the first phase of the project, we had to do a reconnaissance trip (where we did the installation) in order to connect with the community and involve them in the project,” he emphasized.

Mau Mau Collective Street Art mini documentary

House owners were rejecting the idea of street art being performed on their walls; however the troupe were able to reach a compromise following intense negotiations that led to their approval. Mũnũku asserts that they were impressed by the skills of the artists saying “the community was so inspired that now each home owner wanted to have their wall covered with a mural.”

The impact of street arts in some streets in Kenya were deemed so great that residents asked some artists to return to teach their children graffiti art and styling murals.
Mũnũku highlighted that this type of experience should be replicated in other neighborhoods in Nairobi City, which could later resonate in other counties on a local level permanently.

The arts have managed to change this area in Kenya which once believed in crime and violence as a normal and trendy behavior among youngsters. Mũnũku excitingly describes this impact and how it prevailed through society.

“One of the walls had some graffiti etching on it done by a local gang written 'VIETNAM'. We began drawing on the walls when 2-3 people from the area told us firmly not to erase the word. The word was one proverb that motivated youth to join gang life. Later, we defiantly (together with the support of the wider community) erased the word and replaced it with VICTORY,” he explained; pointing out that several people have strongly opposed erasing the word ‘VIETNAM’.”

Despite the initiative paving way for their arts to survive, it has often struggled to survive as an artistic element of change where Mũnũku stated that he has experienced an attempted sabotage from members of society who didn’t want Mau Mau to succeed.

“They spread malicious rumors that we were against foreigners, yet what we were actually against was ‘foreign dependence’ which leaves the industry neutered,” Mũnũku added.

Railways Museum (Photo Courtesy of Mau Mau Collective official Facebook page)

Other activities conducted by the initiative include reviving the community’s library in a joint project with an organization called Vitabu Vyetu, which means “Our Books” in Swahili; and another organization called Wajukuu Arts Collective.

The group is currently planning for their first feature film that is expected to be produced in 2018. The film is based on a true story of Mũnũku’s father suffering as an air force captain during the attempted Kenyan Coup in 1982.

Mau Mau Collective has shot a short film documenting the cycle of abuse called, “Kaleidoscope,” in which Mũnũku wrote the script.

One of Mau Mau Collective projects Kaleidoscope

The next six months are expected to witness mentoring by Mau Mau in the following three fields: visual arts, performing arts, and film. Despite the packed schedule of the initiative in the upcoming period, it has always been challenged as an organization by the lack of resources; however, this obstacle is tackled through fundraising programs.

“Other challenges include a myriad of obstacles that come with being a new outfit pushing for non-conventional change,” added Mũnũku.

Mau Mau Collective continues to enthusiastically use art as a weapon through visualization, Mũnũku mentioned; By imagining daily human struggles artists are able to develop artworks through inspirational formats that call for change.



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