By Njuguna Wakanyote
After plying their art locally for over two decades, a couple remembered and counted amongst seasoned Kenyan artists are offering free art lessons to enthusiastic ex-street children. Eunice Wadu is among the established artists involved in this noble initiative, after she discovered her passion to teach children rudiments in art.
“So far, we have apprenticed destitute boys drawn from around Naivasha. In 2002 and 2003 we organized an ‘Apprenticeship’ group exhibition at the National Museum of Kenya. Four ex-street boys who started out their careers at the Sane Wadu studios are already self-supporting artists”, she says.
But Eunice and her husband Sane are not resting on their laurels: “So far, we are not as yet satisfied with our achievements. We have embarked on a bold project involving 25 street kids. The idea is not to fully house them for we simply cannot afford this. We, however, aim at providing them with at least a meal a day. We believe with some help, we can assist them rejoin the mainstream society”, she explains.
Whereas the Wadu’s, offer free art materials and lessons to the children, they are only happy to receive a smile as their ‘commission’ whenever any of the children’s work sells. When I asked Eunice whether I could talk to some of the children, she burst out laughing, as she led me to the studio and classrooms upstairs where they learn.
“We are not a fraudulent couple out to try and siphon off donor funds; we recognize that street families are part and parcel of our society. That’s why we are serious about this project”, she asserts. I later talk to 15-year-old David Lepeiyo, an orphaned Turkana boy who has lived in the streets for over two years. His father was knocked down by a vehicle and died.
Thereafter, his mother could only support him by herding goats in Naivasha. But about two years ago, she fell sick and also died. Lepeiyo had no choice but drop out of class five and often sought shelter outside a beer hall in the streets of Naivasha.
Lepeiyo recounted how one day, Sane approached their group of street boys and asked them if they wanted to try out art. If he could have his way, though, he would rather be traffic policeman. However, Lepeiyo’s immediate wish is to become a skilful painter so that he can afford to buy good clothes and a house.
Does this then imply that this promising artist does not like painting? “No, I like painting and Mzee Sane also gives us some money; blue blue (forty shillings)”, he adds. Peter Kariuki (17) was also orphaned aged 10 years. His street life misadventures include hiking to Nairobi to beg, being arrested and later jailed for two months for loitering in the city.
His life however, took a turn for the better when a Mzee Sundra introduced him and his comrades to the Wadu’s; marking a turning point in their lives. “We no longer sleep out in plastic sheets at the market. Instead we now sleep in a store where people keep avocadoes,” he says.
But Kariuki is realistic about his place in life and artistic ability: “I am not a very good artist. I am not gifted like Mwangi or Lepeiyo. I am more gifted as a singer. I know it is not easy to get my music recorded, for now I want to be a cleaner. I can mop floors or even wash cars”.
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