We had a chance to catch up with the artist Shabu Mwangi. This young artist dedicates his heart and soul to art, using it as a driving force to support his community, all while working as a full-time artist. In his work, Shabu strives to examine human behaviour and interaction to discover what really drives us to lose the sense of oneness and reach a point where more focus is always on our ego.
Shabu Mwangi, working in his art studio in Lunga-Lunga village
In the days before Shabu Mwangi started the Wajukuu Arts Project in 2004, the Lunga-Lunga village looked very different; it had no community social support system. Shabu‘s generation didn’t have a positive vision for the future or role models to guide them as kids. Shabu filled the missing gap by creating Wajukuu Arts Project, a community-based art organization that supports Mukuru youth through art workshops, festivals, coaching, and employment assistance.
Creating an alternative space for youth and kids to express their personalities artistically has always been an important goal to Shabu. Growing up in Lunga-Lunga, a village in Mukuru slum in Nairobi, Shabu faced a lot of tragedies. Facing difficult conditions as a kid, Shabu turned to art to make himself feel alive again.
With the tragedies you and your community have faced, do you feel that the community and people can overcome the trauma through the Wajukuu Arts Project?
Wajukuu believes that healing is a process which starts once one acknowledges their present situation. At Wajukuu we have been in the front line trying to stand with our community. With tragic circumstances leaving many parents with nothing to feed their families. Through art, we have been able to sail through it all and always come out with smiling faces.
What initiative has been the highlight for the community?
The kids club has always been our most engaging program. It involves the whole family with their kids enrolled in the club program. Kids are the foundation of tomorrow. That gave us mandate to make sure the kids club gave them space and an environment where they can dream and stand strong as they grow into adulthood.
Wajukuu Art Kids Club, comic book workshop, 2022
What is the biggest change you have seen in your community with the Wajukuu Art Project?
Since our collective started, we can see responsible youth unlike, in the beginning, self-value in those involved directly, role models who can inspire kids as they grow and the acceptance of art in our community as a tool for social change.
What place does creativity have in education? Do you view yourself as a role model?
In the community, we are giving kids an alternative way of being; art is a core factor if it is taught in a way that gives kids a room to feel freedom and access their creativity. Wajukuu always carries with them the need to influence the younger generation, and by doing so, we see ourselves as role models.
What goal did you set for yourself when you started the Wajukuu Art Project?
Our main goal was always to stand together and for each other. Through art, we had goals to grow as a collective and move from the community and start an art center away from the slum where we can engage in a holistic way of being artists. The art center focuses on farming and educational programs for kids and youth from slums to learn the importance of nature and protecting our environment. Our dream has always been to start a community away from the slum.
Wajukuu Art Project, music class, 2022
To support the Wajukuu Arts, AKKA Project will soon be launching a sale of the artist’s postcards where all the proceeds will be donated to Wajukuu Arts Project. AKKA Project hopes to raise funds to support the art centers, ongoing workshops, coaching, and kids club.
Want to help and support the Wajukuu Art Project? You can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org, you can follow Wajukuus Arts journey, on their Instagram or read more about the upcoming projects on their website.