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We can live ‘Lupita moment’

By Machel Waikenda | March 9th 2014

By Machel Waikenda

If Kenyans were ever convinced on the need to support performing arts among the youth, it is at this moment in the country’s history. One of Kenya’s actress won the country its first ever Oscar award becoming the first black African woman to do so. The country has since Monday been in a celebratory mood as Kenyans walked in the halo of Lupita Nyong’o’s triumph at America’s biggest awards gala for her supporting role in the film ‘12 years A Slave’. The award also came just days after her second Hollywood film, ‘Non-Stop’, premiered on February 28. Though she is not the first Kenyan actor to grace Hollywood productions, Lupita’s Oscar award has given her mileage coupled with her being the newest fashion icon. Lupita’s fete underscores a lot of my arguments before that young Kenyans are greatly talented and what they need is the knowledge and capacity to take advantage of these strengths. In her own words: “For every little child, no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

Walk with me here. All of human endeavor has been fed by Dreamers, so to speak. People have through eons conceptualized, fantasized and put forward one foot after the other and seen the object of their deepest desires come true; come to fruition. In Greek mythology, Icarus and his son Daedalus yearned to literally fly away to freedom and fashioned wings and used wax to flee from their oppressors. Today, Mankind has conquered space and every day seeks to go where no creature has gone before. Moses of yore dreamt of his people unchained and stumbled ahead of his charges through the wilderness for a solid 40 years. Today, Israel still remembers its greatest son. Mahatma Gandhi dreamt of a just society and walked the talk. And today, India is the world’s biggest democracy. Martin Luther King Jnr felt strongly that his people were not second-class citizens and had his claim to fame engraved in his ‘Dream Speech’. Today, 40 years later, a black man sits at the White House, having walked in through the front door rather than the slave/service entrance out back.

Kenyans labored under an oppressive system of governance and dreamt of a Second liberation, and today, we are one step at a time, devolving democracy to the grassroots. It is the culmination of the dreams of our proud forefathers, freedom fighters and Founding Fathers that we shall live as a sovereign people in a free and just society.

Lupita is one such beacon. She started acting at our local theatres and now graces the world stage, proudly Kenyan; distinctly African; but above all, the epitome of a dream come true.  The youth should be encouraged to venture into the arts. Emphasis on academics has left little room for development of other talents and gifts. In fact, I remember being ridiculed when I quit my high paying job at Kenya Airways to venture into entertainment. No one believed it was a viable career but this has clearly paid off to elevate me to where I am today. Media is awash with stories of entertainers and players in the performing arts raking in insane earnings. Most of them earn more than engineers, doctors, lawyers and accountants. All the more reason we should not shy away from encouraging arts.

The KCSE results are out and while we are in a culture that appreciates sciences, medicine, courtrooms and other white-collar jobs, we must realise that there are those who fit in the arts. Instead of pushing students to pursue academics only, let’s also encourage them to take up arts and allow them to explore their artistic talents or so-called softer side. It is inborn and untapped. It is in all of us.

Kenyan comedians, musicians and deejays are respected worldwide and have held show in many parts of the world. There is a lot more talent that is yet to be tapped and we must make deliberate efforts to ensure that more make use of these gifts to earn a living.

Every year we celebrate as young Kenyans excel in different fields in the sports arena and increasing their capacity and knowledge is necessary. We must, therefore, as a country come up with a clear policy for performing arts that kicks off the nurturing of talents from the primary school level. Is it not high time we were weaned of the products of Nollywood, Hollywood, Telenovellas by making our own Riverwood more vibrant? Listen to Lupita’s counsel: “For every little child, no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.”

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