As the world commemorated the International Day of Peace on the 21st September 2021, Art360, a Kibera based youths art organization, was doing it in a different style. The group in collaboration with #defyhatenow, Mazingira Yetu and The Agricultural Society of Kenya(ASK) organised the Nairobi #Peacejam2021 which happened concurrently with the virtual peace event that brought international peace jammers to share peace and love through meaningful discussions critical to strengthening and maintaining peace.
Why was it important to conduct the event in Kibera?
Kibera, being a hotspot of political intolerance in the country, was perfectly positioned to hold the event considering a dark history of post-election violence that at one time almost brought the world’s 3rd largest slum to its knees. The slum which is home to close to a million people is ravaged by poor sanitation, acute water shortage and conflict among the various communities living there. Those factors make the informal settlement vulnerable to activities that violate peace like crime and general violence due to the scramble for essential resources like health services, water and food, and employment opportunities.
In an interview with Nawezaa’s Jean Marie, Art360’s Deputy Director Francis Omondi who goes by the moniker ‘Grandsan’ noted,
“Kibera acts as the face of the country since it has almost all communities from the 47 Tribes in Kenya, this means creating awareness here resembles creating awareness for the whole country”
Photos by KESH NTHAMBA
The event was marked by colorful dancing and drum sessions by the talented Wasanii Sanaa Group whose dancers came decked out in traditional attire and performed traditional folk songs and dances which were a big hit with the audience. Sam Kule, the iconic street musician came in and completely stole the show. The street king’s creative take on popular reggae and country music had the audience singing along and even sharing the stage with him in an invigorating sing-along session. Songs like “When Leaders Fight“ and “Beba Beba”, which address contemporary issues and promote peace also connected well with the audience. Other great voices like AVB band’s Simon Ouma better known as Derddery ensured that the entertainment flowed and there was never a dull moment.
Photos by KESH NTHAMBA
The peak of the event saw Art360 artists paint a mural of a dove drawing the universe from an anti-peace monster. “As you all know a dove represents peace and the dove here is trying to save the world from violence. It’s a call for us all to help this dove sustain peace in the world” Omondi explained. The mural was complemented by huge powerful writings “LET PEACE REIGN“
Photo by KESH NTHAMBA
“Our role is to use art to campaign for peace in the country in the face of the coming elections. We want to see this country go through a peaceful election where no politician will come to manipulate or buy us to give in to tribalism or riots that will take our country back to the dark past. Youths like us should be at the forefront of the peace campaign” he added.
Others echoed his words, noting that peace in the country should be maintained at all costs. “I come From the Democratic Republic Of Congo where peace was once disrupted by a crisis of civil war with subsequent massive deaths and displacement of people. It is Important to have peace in a country like Kenya” Chocho, a Congolese Refugee emphasized bearing witness on how war, violence and political intolerance would shatter the country. With what he said it was all clear that any war or conflict would have repercussions and would cause a wound that would take ages to heal.
“Let’s embrace peace beyond mere advocacy. It’s through only peace and mutuality that we realize growth and development. At this time of political environment, we must put peace at the forefront of our national unifying agenda that will enhance cohesion and inclusivity. Let’s cooperate in peace. Someone told me that violence is the last resort to incompetence. That’s why I choose peace as my everyday culture. As we mark the International Day of the Peace, let us embrace peace always. I therefore urge the people of Kibera and the nation at large to always take peace as their first, last, and only options,” Dralagar George alias Tebalaya – Founder, Political Intent urged the participants.
The message of peace was all clear, now how would it be further emphasized?
“Go out there and be ambassadors of peace, do it as an individual and one day peace will be singing in the air”, Omondi emphasized.
Art 360, #defyhatenow, Mazingira Yetu and The Agricultural Society of Kenya(ASK) had for sure done a good job and the peace message calls for all.
“Recovering better for an equitable and sustainable world.”
It’s a time to heal from the past. Together for a peaceful co-existence this is what this year peace theme means, and should mean,
LET PEACE REIGN, AND IT SHALL RAIN!
By Jean Marie Ishimwe – Rapporteur Nairobi #peacejam2021