About Kibera Walls for Peace: Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya 2013: Kibera Walls for Peace youth arts project in one of Africa's largest slums; working toward peace for the elections through public art and peace-building workshops with local youth.

Nairobi, Kenya 2013: Kibera Walls for Peace youth arts project in one of Africa’s largest slums; working toward peace for the elections through public art and peace-building workshops with local youth.

The “Kibera Walls for Peace” youth public art project aims to encourage unity and cooperation between ethnic and political groups ahead of Kenya’s presidential election scheduled for March, 2013. Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums, was strongly affected by the violence and political turmoil that engulfed Kenya after the last election, and preventing a repeat of this crisis is the our main objective. (Click here to learn about post-election violence in Kibera.)

The community- based youth organization Kibera Hamlets has organized 30 local youth to study peace-building and public art, culminating in the creation of a series of public murals in high-profile locations around Kibera, all aimed at easing tensions between different ethnic and political groups and encouraging peace. International artist and educator Joel Bergner is collaborating with the youth, leading educational workshops and creating the artwork with them. The process is being filmed and turned into a documentary by one of Nairobi’s leading filmmakers, Willie Owusu. It will be screened around Kenya and broadcast worldwide via the Internet and screenings, telling the story of Kibera youth striving to bring peace and stability to their people. Besides mural art, the project features music, dance and theater presentations by the youth in collaboration with local artists, which was presented at our inaugural event.

The idea for “Kibera Peace Walls” was born when Project Organizer Mia Foreman met two extraordinary young women who worked with Kibera Hamlets to uplift their community. After being inspired by the youth and meeting with director John Adoli, Foreman shared her experience with her friend Joel Bergner. Together, the three of them began their collaboration and the development of their plan.

This project was made possible by the generous support of the Open Society Initiative of East Africa and 140 individuals who contributed through our Kickstarter campaign. Asante sana!! (Thank you so much!)

There are three main objectives to this project:

1.     Use public art to promote peace, understanding and cooperation between ethnic groups and political factions leading up to the 2013 presidential election, with the aim of building a more democratic and stable society. This will be achieved not only through the artwork itself, but also through the process of organizing local youth to work toward this goal.

2.     Give Kibera youth an educational experience in which they learn about crucial issues in their community and society, learn team work, express themselves artistically, and have the opportunity to contribute to their neighborhoods by creating uplifting works of art that educate their fellow residents and promote peace.

3.     To uplift and inspire residents of Kibera through public art. The murals created will be brightly-colored and skillfully rendered, allowing locals the daily enjoyment of art that all too often is only made available to wealthier citizens.

While these goals are intended to be met over the course of the project, they are also meant to have a long-lasting positive effect in the community. For a young person unfamiliar with his or her ability to create social change, this experience can be life- changing, and can lead to a life of activism and the desire to improve one’s community in a variety of ways. Even those who do not directly participate in the project will be inspired by the artwork, the documentary, and the idea that a group of Kibera youth worked toward the goal of peace and stability.

While “Kibera Walls for Peace” was created specifically in the context of encouraging peace ahead of the upcoming election, we intend to continue and expand the project into an ongoing arts and social action program in Kibera. The program, tentatively titled “Kibera Talking Walls,” will deal with with a variety of important social issues in the community through public art, including HIV and AIDS awareness, cultivating positive relationships, gender issues, and violence prevention. The students will explore and discuss these issues and learn to express their ideas through the arts. The program will involve the participation of local artists, who will work with the youth to create murals and perform music, dance and theater presentations.

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