One memory from the Mathare Valley Slums I'll never forget is the day I took about 60 kids and did a drawing exercise with them.
I had packed a bunch of small blank sketch pads and a box of pens in my suitcase. We headed to a small grass field in the slums so we'd have room for everyone.
David Theuri drawing a taxi van.
To help them get into it I started to draw a few pictures as they swarmed around me. (A friendly dogpile if you will) They laughed as I drew out funny faces and characters.
Ndanu Musill drawing of a church.
Once I was done drawing I began handing the sketch pads to kids along with a pen and they'd take it and go off and sit down and draw a picture. It was fun to watch them draw and even better when they got excited to show me what they had created.
If there is a universal creative attribute it's drawing. All kids love to do it. It's only as they get old and fear sets in that they give it up. It's the fear of what others may think of their work that causes many to stop drawing as they get older. No one was timid in this group, they had a lot of fun and no fear.
A little girl draws a person.
Watching some of them draw reminded me how much my own daughters love to draw, and how much I love to look at their artwork. It struck me that none of these kids have a refrigerator to hang a drawing on, or paper or a pen for that matter.
Cliff's airplane drawing and Elizabeth Njeri's girl drawing.
These kids may live in a slum but they have the same childlike fascinations that any other kid would have. That much was evident in the drawings I collected.
Cliff has probably never flown in a plane, but he could sure draw one pretty well. He's obviously seen them fly high above in the sky and remembered what they looked like.
Denis and his sports car drawing.
It doesn't matter where in the world you live, or what community or culture you're part of, there is always someone with an artistic bent. A raw talent if you will. And I had hoped to discover one such kid within the Mathare Valley Slums and along came Denis.
He was eager to get a pad and pen and quickly started drawing. When he brought the drawing back I looked at his sports car drawing and just smiled saying "Wow!" bumped fists with him and said "Good job Denis! This is awesome!"
Drawing by Denis. Sports car and a dragon.
Denis didn't stop with a sports car he also drew a dragon, a caricature of Kelsey Timmerman, a cartoon man, and myself.
I wanted to encourage him to keep drawing so I gave Denis a few pads of paper and a couple pens and told him to keep drawing cool pictures. I hope he does.
Young boy observing other kids.
While shooting in another slum location for the documentary I spotted this young boy watching something through the hole in the fence. He sat there for a good ten minutes before he noticed me watching and moved along.
Kids in a slum school.
I walked over and looked through the same hole and spotted what had captivated his attention. It was a slum school and he was watching the kids in the school yard playing.
Not all kids in the slums can afford these private slum schools, many don't have any schooling. Not because they wouldn't want to learn, but rather their parents either can't afford it or don't enroll them or teach them any schooling.
This of course compounds the problem they'll face in the future.
Slum kids playing in an abandoned van.
After I finished the drawing exercise with the kids, they made their way over to a gutted out old van sitting in the field and it instantly became a playground. Fun is fun no matter if you're in the slums or not.
Wire Bike sculpture created by a slum artist. (Click picture for larger image)
While driving out of downtown Nairobi one afternoon there was a slum artist selling wire sculptures he created on the street. I bought this cool motorcycle for five dollars, and others in our crew bought the rest of his work. I'm amazed at the level of detail and ingenuity that obviously went into creating this art. Amazing!
I enjoyed my time in Kenya, but you don't have to go to Africa in order to help others out. Look for things you can do locally to improve the lives of others and share your time by investing in their well being. It's fun and you'll never be the same again.
Thanks for taking the time to read my posts over the last several days. The experience in the Nairobi slums has forever changed me and when the final version of the documentary is released I'll be posting about the premiere locations.
I'm sure the documentary will be a powerful film and it was a privilege to be part of it's production.