Spice: Creativity for change
As a choreographer, dancer with a crew that also takes up corporate gigs and a tattoo artiste with a physical space to run the business, Stephen Aila aka Vosti was living a comfortable life in Juja in Kiambu county.
Then Covid-19 pandemic struck and he was left in a desperate state, and as many creatives like him, their tools of trade suddenly became blunt.
“After high school, my parents were not able to send me to university despite me passing my exams well. That did not deter me from making the most of the situation and that is how my journey as an entertainer started. I made an income from that and also as a tattoo artist where I operated a tattoo parlour.
However, when Covid-19 struck, things went south and this was not just for me, but also within my neighbourhood. Cases of teenage pregnancies were on a rise in the country and my estate was not spared either. That is when I had a light-bulb moment of bringing these young people together for dance training sessions, as restrictions got a little bit relaxed,” he tells Spice.
With tens of young people joining the training sessions, Vosti was able to pass on the message to his target audience and this led to him forming a community-based organisation where creatives pool their resources together for noble causes.
“We started a talent search initiative in Juja Constituency where we move within the five wards identifying talents and supporting them through our own means. For example, we have a number of producers within our membership and when we have events, they identify a couple of artistes from the auditions and record music for them for free.
The same goes to barbers, fashion designers and tattoo artists. At the same time, we leverage our social media numbers where every established brand goes live and with the pooled numbers, we boost each other audiences,” he adds.
Through these gigs, the group is able to pass along messages such as ills of drug and substance abuse.
In the streets of Nairobi’s Kawangware slums, a group of young artistes came together with a mission of changing the flawed perceptions people have whenever their neighbourhood name is mentioned.
“We knew that our hood has a bad reputation because of crime and looting when things such as demonstrations happen. At the same time, every time Kawangware is mentioned in the news, most of the time it is on a negative light and that is when we came with the idea of changing the narrative.
"As artistes, we felt it was our responsibility to change this and paint a different picture of the place we call home,” says rapper Birdboi Geneous.
He adds that together with other creatives, they started hosting street events where they would have a public address system and do rap cyphers, singing competitions and with this, most of them started gaining stage experience and most importantly, changing the mindsets from within the area.
“The local administration saw it was brilliant idea, as it was bringing young people together and supported us. This September, we will have a peace concert dubbed ‘A Circle of Celebration,’ as we will be commemorating the first anniversary of our group the New 56 Reformed Youth Group, the organisation that brings us all together,” says Birdboi.
Csko, a fellow rapper and the chairman of the group says the group whose rallying theme is Wasanii na Amani has also been on an outreach mission of changing the mindset of the young creatives within its membership in what he describes as “mtaa mentality”.
“Many youths with talent in the slums are not guided properly due to circumstances in and out of their reach. Some things like engaging in crime from an early age are things we can change from within.
However, fighting for public spaces is on another level. That is why some of us trained as paralegals to help solve some of these issues facing us and this has enabled us to work with government and non-government organisations such as Crime Si Poa to push our objectives,” he says.
Apart from gracing our screens, actor Alfred Munyua has been working with the Kenya Red Cross to spread anti-gender-based violence messages in his native Machakos county. He recently led a walk around the town dubbed “Power of Humanity Walk”.
“Gender-Based Violence (GBV) continues to plague the country, posing serious threats to the well-being and quality of life of survivors. Startling revelations from a recent survey conducted in Machakos county shed light on the reluctance of survivors of sexual violence to seek assistance at healthcare facilities.
"Shockingly, only three per cent of survivors turn to health centres, with the majority relying on local mechanisms to resolve their cases. The concerning levels of GBV have prompted the need for the partnership with Kenya Red Cross, in collaboration with the Machakos county government and various partners, to take action and implement measures aimed at curbing this distressing situation,” he intimates to Spice.
Away from the stage
Apart from spitting rhymes and poetry in events, Mombasa-born rapper Kaa La Moto spits facts to young people in his county through the Wezesha Project, in which he visits high schools with other like-minded creatives.
“This project is based on motivating and inspiring the youth, especially the girl child. In my county, cases of school drop outs and teenage pregnancies are worrying concerns and that is why I use my platform as an artiste to talk about this and in a youth friendly manner.
"Through hip-hop, we can educate each other and try to come up with sustainable solutions to our problems,” he says.