Art Renaissance in Arusha!
by Charlotte Hill O’Neal aka Mama C
I was coming from a most enjoyable time at the Back to S.U.A. (Saving Underground Artists) events held at Masai Camp last week and on my way to the Arusha Poetry Club (APC) at Taste of Mexico that same evening. I had participated in some Santuri Safari recordings and prepresented a workshop on Self Love at S.U.A. and as co Director, with George Kyomushula of APC, of course I HAD to be there also! I was a little surprised that so many poets showed up that night because Afadhali Night was also happening at Alliance Francaise! All these cultural ‘happenings’ are unprecedented in our African community and it is the youth who are organizing and pushing and making things happen!
So many of our young artists are also learning to be community activists and entrepreneurs and that is just the spark that we need to keep the flames of creativity burning brightly in our city! Some of these youth have gotten basic training from various NGO’s that have given them the confidence to spread their wings and fly to heights that they might not have imagined before. And the thing that I appreciate is that there is a mind set of ‘Each One Teach One’…an effective way to spread knowledge through example and through collective sharing.
Musicians from East Africa at Saving Underground Artists event. They include Ema Maasai ,
Akula “Dunga” Akwabi, Rachel, Mama C. Santuri Safari representative and G. Masese
There is a constant flow of workshops and gatherings that encourage peace and love in our communities through art and creativity and many youth could care less about the ‘borders’ that separate so many others i.e. urban vs rural; race and language and culture; haves vs have not’s and even clear separations of genre of music, dance, etc. Theirs is a different mindset! You will see traditional instruments together with hip hop artists. You will see hip hop artists ‘spittin’ their lyrics beside classical Swahili poets! You will see break dancers making their moves alongside ballet dancers! Artists have always been the ones who believe in erasing borders and knocking down stigma! This is especially true among Arusha crews! And I love that!!
I am inspired everyday working with these youth like S.U.A. which has grown into the OKOA FOUNDATION and encompasses not only rapping but also entrepreneurship. It is so encouraging to have watched the Arusha Poetry Club grow from a few dedicated poets to a whole family of new poets that include people from all walks of life. Talking about ‘growth’…APC has recently initiated a project called APC for STUDENTS for Arusha region schools that will give students in both primary and secondary schools an opportunity to discover more about poetry from a historical perspective while also learning to be skillful artists themselves. APC founder, George Kyomushula explains further that “APC for STUDENTS will hold workshops that will culminate in poetry competitions and the judges of these contests will be experienced, established poets. The winning students will receive publicity for their talent and creativity and will also be awarded the opportunity to record their poetry on an upcoming APC album and/or video!”
An Art Renaissance is certainly going on in Arusha and I am blessed and happy to be in the midst of it!!