by Georgiana Phua
I spent 2 weeks in Sipili, Laikipia West, Kenya, in January 2010 to teach art at art clubs set up by the Mobile Art School in Kenya (MASK). I wanted to take the opportunity to discover the African continent and share my passion and artistic knowledge.
I had trouble finding it on the map- the driving map of East Africa that I had acquired from the bookstore in Nairobi left it out. Most of its 2000 inhabitants engage in subsistence farming, a common observation in the developing world. Each morning I was awoken by wailing donkeys, whipped hard on its backs, transporting a cartful of jerry cans from the water point to homes around the town. The less financially-able carry these large jerry cans on their backs, the women attach sashes to the water cans and support the bands on their foreheads.
In 2009, Sipili suffered from a year-long drought. The maize crops that many of the farmers relied on for their staple food, ugali, had dried up. It was a difficult year- food was scarce and some families had to get by with only one meal a day.
Thomas Kanyoko, a teacher at Lariak Day Secondary School, is the local coordinator of the art programs for MASK, the organization I was volunteering with. Beyond art education, there were local issues -of food security, poverty and meeting basic human needs- that needed to be addressed. On his family farm in Mwenje, a neighboring town, Thomas had started a small greenhouse that survived the year-long drought and was looking at educating his students at Lariak Day Secondary School on sustainable agriculture through practical training.
That was how it started. One morning, Thomas and I sat down at a small tea shop in Sipili, discussed our ideas, wrote a proposal, then borrowed a USB modem and submitted the proposal for the Projects for Peace grant.
We will be executing our project this June with a grant from Projects for Peace.