Sarakasi, the home of performing artistes
| Aug 23rd 2012 | 2 min read
By Wangeci Kanyeki
What was once a vandalised Shan Cinema hall at Ngara in Nairobi has for the last decade evolved into an art centre for developing acrobats, dancers, musicians and circus performers.
In a neighbourhood that was primarily occupied by the Asian community in the early 1970s with their textile and spice retail shops on the ground floor and residential premises on the first floor, the Shan Cinema was an entertainment hall for Asian movies.
By the time it was purchased in 2006 by Rudy and Marion Van Dijck, the cinema hall was dilapidated and in shambles. Over two years, the unique shaped dome has been transformed to an artistic piece of architecture with graffiti expressions on the maroon coloured exterior walls. The former garbage pile in the parking area has also been totally transformed.
Inside the building are three floors where the offices are situated with decorative wall hangings of pictures and events hosted by the Sarakasi Trust. At the rooftop overlooking the city is a fenced area where cocktails are held and guests can enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
At the foyer is a ‘Shan’ sign indicative of the former building with paintings hanging on one side and a painting of a Sarakasi acrobat balancing on one hand and blowing a trumpet with the other. The maroon wall has splashes of orange colour near the side bar.
The Sarakasi Trust building is a rehearsal space for developing the talents of performing artists. Dancing studio based at the former Shan House is alive with energy as youth practise their choreography dance moves. The corridors and walls come energetic with various artistic expressions. What was formerly the Shan Cinema auditorium is now used as a concert hall for productions withsound and lighting to enhance the experience.
During the week, the hall is used as a rehearsal area for acrobats. The adjacent building, former Shan House, which was an Asian fabric shop, houses the Sawa Sawa bar.
On the third floor is a three bedroom apartment for circus interns complete with kitchen, living room and study.
Most of the artistes originate from the slum areas in Nairobi and the location of the building makes for easy access via public transport as matatus pass right outside the gate. The parking area provides a safe area for private vehicles.
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