United States of Kibera
In Kibera, one of the most notorious slums in the world both for its extreme poverty and danger, there is a group of artists who are inspiring tangible change within the community. Based out of Katwo Kera, one of the 14 informal neighborhoods in Kibera, is Jah-Army. While the group started in 2005 with two members, today there are about 15. Each member specializes in a type of art including basket weaving, beadwork, graffiti, film, painting, and banana leaf carving. They also create music as a group, perform, DJ, and emcee. Jah-Army uses their art to spread messages to the community. The group promotes environmental consciousness in Kibera, security within the community by discouraging guns and violence, and inspiring change through the use of art. Currently, Jah-Army is planning a day after Christmas event with the help of the community radio station, Pamoja FM. On their daily 2:00 show, "Pass the Mic, Speak Up Your Mind", the radio will hold a campaign in which listeners can call in to talk with each other and Jah-Army on the topic. On December 26, workshops will be held to teach how one can use the natural environment to create different kinds of crafts, art pieces, and jewelry, and how this can become economically self-sustainable. There also will be an open art gallery walk where all artists in Kibera can display their finest pieces. At night there will be performances from many famous arts groups around Kibera such as the Kibea Hamlets, a group of young acrobats, and Nairobi Ngoma, a group of traditional dancers and drummers.
GG Spice, founder of Jah-Army said, "This is going to be a really big event. With all of the crazy politics going on right now in Kenya, people here in Kibera are affected the most. We want to give them something that they can take into the New Year and use to make life better."
I have been lucky enough to become friends with this very talented group. When I met them, I just couldn’t help but see a very compelling story. I hope you do too. I am also currently working on a film covering the planning of this event and the daily ups and downs of life in Kibera. If you want to know more about Jah-Army or more of my work, please check out these sites.