They took the audience’s breath away the moment they took to the stage. In the dimly lit hall, their figure-hugging dresses and make-up screamed chutzpah.
And when Beyoncé’s Dance for You played, their moves had the close to 300 people rising in applause.
This was just what the Ghetto Exposed graduates had in mind. They wanted to show what immense talent lies in the neglected slums.
The two girls, Noel Ojiambo and Davillah Skynnor, are now professional dancers. They can choreograph and dance to ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap dance, African fusion and more, all thanks to Ghetto Exposed.
“I was shocked to learn that there was a dance school I could join. Many youth think dancehall is the only interesting dance, and that girls can only shake it à la Miley Cyrus. We have been taught how to create a dance, not just copy what we see in music videos,” says Ojiambo.
The two girls are among the eight dancers who graduated with a diploma at Ghetto Exposed, an art school, last Saturday at the Michael Joseph Centre in Nairobi. They join other photographers from the same school who also graduate in their respective field after three years of training.
Slums have always been linked with poverty, crime and idleness. But Ghetto Exposed has painted yet another picture: that of success when talents are tapped.
With their motto being “Exposing the Positive Side”, the school has seen 12 of their students mostly from Korogocho, Huruma, and Mukuru kwa Njenga slums realise their dreams.
Another graduant, Francis Muturi, whose choreographed dance, Explosions, was the first one to usher the night of many other dances like Poetry in Motion, which was choreographed by yet another graduating student David Kinuthia.
Brian Ndegwa, Stephen Ouma, Joseph Waweru and George Omondi had their photographs decorate the walls in the hall.
The photos covered life in the slums: a cobbler repairing shoes, children making car toys out of tyres, children resting next to a dumpsite, youths playing pool, riots in the slums with war between the police and the dwellers, roads filed with thrown stones and burnt tyres.
But Stephen Ouma points out that the idea was not to depict a bad image of the slum areas or draw sympathy to those who live in slums. Instead, he says he always take pictures he feels connected to and expressing how he feels on what he sees.
The 23-year-old has won in an IMF Africa Rising youth photo contest and has been invited to Maputo, Mozambique, for a congress to be held in May 28 and 29 where he will be the official photographer. The contest was set to identify the problems affecting in Africa. One of his other photos shot in the slum will also be exhibited at the Australian Embassy in June after it garnered the top 30 position across the globe.
“Having all these at my age is an achievement. It is something that I sit back and thank God for. I knew that this is the path I wanted to take in life and get more from this though I never thought I could tell stories through my photos and do documentaries and make it until I joined Ghetto Exposed,” recalls Ouma.
“Getting somebody I can work with when I joined Ghetto Exposed was a bit tasking,” he says.
The founders of Ghetto Exposed, Caroline Slot, a dancer and Suzie Geenen, a photographer, explain that they met coincidentally on their visit to Kenya and when they went back to Netherlands we thought of opening up an art school and we brainstormed on the idea until we came back and opened in 2011.
“We spotted there was a lot of talent but the only way for them to stand out was to have some training. A number of them had not pursued further education with poverty as a restrain,” says Slot.
“Some students have benefited already from the classes. There are those who have moved out of their parents’ homes and have grown to be independent young people,” she expresses.