By Jeckonia Otieno
Not so long ago, Erick and his elder brother Adam Kawessa were in one happy family and there was no need of their knowing where the next meal would come from, for dad and mum took care of that. Then their parents died and left the two to fend for themselves and take care of their younger sister.
Ideas of how to go about this new responsibility were untenable. They watched as their frail grandmother, whom they live with in Uganda, struggled to feed them. Adam decided to quit school to help. Erick continued with school on and off.
Then one day, the two brothers decided to earn a living in the streets; not by begging but through selling their talent – drawing artistic portraits.
We recently met the two on one of the Mombasa streets. They had spread out artistic pieces they had drawn and painted.
Their creativity is impressive: They capture near-perfect images of famous and not-so-famous people. Those impressed by their work give them some money – coins and some notes too. This money goes to ensuring Erick and the sister continue with school.
Living off the streets has not been easy, says Erick, the one who can speak English as Adam dropped out of school too soon.
“We have faced ups and downs since our parents died while we were still very young. But our strong will to continue to live has sustained us here.”
As he speaks, big brother Adam is busy working on a drawing of a man herding cattle.
The two who are both Kenyan and Ugandan citizens, were born in Jinja, Uganda. Their mother was from Kisumu while their father was Ugandan.
Their father died in a road accident in 1998 while the mother fell ill and passed on six years later. They had to live with their grandmother in Jinja.
Erick was born in 1994, two years after Adam, while their sister is nine and in Standard Two at a village school near Jinja. Erick is in Form Four at Madina Islamic School in Jinja.