Danish Art Students Take Street Art Tour with Ndugu Mdogo Children
Visiting Danish art students have concluded a two-day street art visit on 30-31 March that saw them work together with children from the streets of Nairobi and those reformed, living in Ndugu Mdogo Rescue Centre in Kibera.
This is the ninth time students from the Silkeborg Hojskole, a short-term vocational training institution situated in Det midtjyske Søhøjland District, are making trips to Kenya for the artistic engagement since the project was incepted in 2008 after the director of the Art school, Jan Lundum met with Jack Matika of Ndugu Mdogo.
Jan says that the idea of doing a different travel apart from the accustomed ones, was one well thought of, which was not only to develop skills in art but also in other avenues of life as human being. The choice about Kenya as an interesting place to try was well weighed, because of what he cites as so much development of art in Eastern Africa as compared to Europe and other places.
His first meeting with Jack was in May 2008 shortly after the 2007/08 post-election violence to see whether his institution and Koinonia Community could liaise and do something of benefit to both. Having both a shared religious background with Christian values was something more a catalyst to arriving at an agreement of commitment.
The Ndugu Mdogo Rescue Centre is a Koinonia Community initiative located at Nairobi’s Kibera slum, where Koinonia social workers initiate identify children living on the street, and proceed to organize street activities with them as a prelude to a fostering process that gradually moulds them into sound members of the society.
The 13 female Danish students converged on Friday 30 March at the Ngong stadium with street children from different areas of Nairobi, to take part in art exercises that were seen to help the children express their inner-most feelings and experiences on the streets.
The exercises included paintworks, playing activities and weaving of other handmade antiques with the guidance of the Danish students’ group. The street boys involved are mainly those under the Koinonia street rehabilitation programme, who will be soon taken into Ndugu Mdogo Rescue Centre on a later date.
Jack Matika, head of Ndugu Mdogo Rescue Centre says the having the Danish students around has helped the children develop, and also aided them as street educators in their understanding more on ways these children want to be handled.
“Sometimes these children express themselves better through artwork activities like writing and drawing, we as educators are able to understand fears from the children through these expressions; what do they like and what they don’t have,” says Matika. “Through such ways, we are in a position to know well how to handle each and every child after the rescue.”
On the second day of the programme, Saturday, the art students under stewardship of their director visited Ndugu Mdogo for another similar experience of art with now a rehabilitated lot of children, who like their counterparts, were on the streets but, thanks to the Koinonia rescue, now they find a home and good care.
Though new with the visitors at the centre could not hide their joy on seeing the new friends, upon learning that they were on a mission similar to those who visited last year. Joyful shouts rendered the air as both groups exchanged greetings and pleasantries, with some of the children reminiscing on the last art activities they had with the previous group, started chanting some of the theme songs they learned from last year’s experience.
The programme carried on well, with activities similar to those conducted with the street children on the previous day, spanning through the better part of the day, before the Danish students presented the children with some of the gifts they brought them before signing off.
The artefacts made from the two-day engagement with the children will then be sold by the students back in Denmark as it has been always, to raise funds that will aid in getting those on the streets into the rescue centre and put though school, those who have undergone the one-year rehabilitation programme at the centre.
“This time we are doing small coffee cups with the prints of what they have done and when you buy this cup you get a small photo of the child who did the drawing with a few words from the child about challenges they face in being street children,” Said Jan showing us a sample of the calendars presented to the centre, made from prints of last year’s work.
Many children mainly those who lived on the streets are reported to have been greatly affected by the violence that followed the disputed presidential polls of 2007, bearing that most of the destructions and the violence took part right in the streets and which they had known ever since to be their homes.
“When we first came here and found Koinonia as a very good organisation to be part of, we had a big talk about children, and we found out that they needed some more arts,” Jan narrates. Since then he continues, students visiting with him have used small art projects, where children are allowed to communicate through art.
“Sometimes you see when they are on the streets they do drugs to forget their problems, emotions, what they are in at that time and be somewhere else.” He says, sometimes that too is possible through art where you can be so much into it that you can express yourself and forget about your problems or just let them out.
After each visit which is conducted twice a year; in March and October, Jan Says they receive quite an overwhelming response from each batch of students and this has aided growth and support of the project back in Denmark.
“Back home, it’s so difficult for them to have an idea of what a street child is because we don’t have that in Denmark. There is always a system to bring a child up, so it’s difficult to understand that it’s a fact in many countries especially here and they don’t know how to face the children and don’t have skills to interact with them.
According to the United Nations children agency, UNICEF, over 150 million children are estimated to live on the streets of various cities, with the number rising daily. 40 % of these children are totally homeless, while 60% work on the streets to support their families. In Kenya the number is estimated to be at 300,000, with most being found in the capital, Nairobi, owing to factors like poverty, urbanisation, poor family integrations and HIV/AIDS that has pushed orphans into the streets to fend for themselves.
In traditional African set-up, people lived as a community and every child would belong to it. Those whose parents died were taken care of by the immediate relatives with support from the entire community. Matters of divorce or were then hardly heard, which today are among the leading factors in pushing children into the streets.
On future prospects of the project, jack says he wishes for it to expand and be more involving and networking with other Danish organisations and sectors, informing them more about the Koinonia projects and inviting them over to learn what the community is doing and “to walk with us” through this works.
Jan though says he sees it right for the project to continue slowly like it is, because owing to the reaction of students after each visit has led to involving more people, who greatly contribute towards its realisation.
“It’s important for me to have continuous process in the project to follow up on the contacts,” he says. After each visit, the students go back home and share their experiences, where they hold lectures for the whole school and also family members and friends, where they show pictures and inform about real time facts from down here.