Samuel Hall and Youth Voices Community hosted an Open Mic session of Poetry, Music & Storytelling for refugees and migrants. Hosted at Samuel Hall’s Nairobi Office Garden, this event aimed to provide a platform for talented artists with lived experiences of migration and displacement to showcase their skills and tell their stories, including stand-up comedy, poetry, storytelling, and music and/or any other platform. This was based on the organization’s mission of connecting voices of the community to changemakers for more inclusive societies, believing that such an event makes a push towards “reversing the gaze” and facilitating agency for refugees and migrants to tell their own stories in formats they feel most compelled and most comfortable in.
The event welcomed more than 50 attendees and was co-hosted by Jared Owuor from Samuel Hall and Jean Marie from Youth Voices Community.
Artists: The event featured the following seven artists. Each performance was live-streamed on Samuel Hall’s Instagram account.
- K-two, a young South Sudanese poet born and raised in Kakuma Refugee Camp. Having done poetry for 7 years, he advocates for the voiceless in the community.
- Maketh Edu, a comedian from South Sudan currently based in Nairobi. The audience shared some laughs at his satirical references and were amused by his comparisons. On being asked by Jean Marie how his experience as a comedian has been so far, he talks about how refugees are much more than just their labels.
- Ekra Abdi, also known as Somali Iron Lady, addresses social development issues through her spoken word poetry. Her performance during the session was about human trafficking. She spoke about how her experience as a Somali-Kenyan living in Nairobi has affected her art. She also mentioned how the media world is hard to navigate, but her inspiration from within hasn’t let her quit yet, and she wants to show to other Somali women in her community that it is possible to be anything they want to be.
- Fariji Napa is an African fusion musician. He believes in bringing hope, joy, and peace through his music. On being asked how he thinks art can increase visibility on refugee/migrant issues and promote social change, he mentions that art can become a powerful language for self-expression. Beautifully sung and articulated, he dedicates one of his songs to his village.
- Shikkiey is a poetess and DJ. She is an artist and published poet from Kenya who uses art to bring social change. On being asked how people affected by conflicts can be empowered through art, she mentioned how she was part of an initiative called “In Place of War” in conflict-affected areas in Uganda where art was used to bring people together.
- Nyamouch Mai Ngouth is a fine art artist and Sudanese refugee living in Kalobeyei Kakuma. She has been painting since 2018, and her work mostly focuses on the local people of South Sudan. She is currently pursuing a diploma in drawing and painting at the Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts. Art, for her, is a way of documenting the history and daily lives of her community. Initially, painting was a way of coping with her life in the refugee camp, it was an escape from reality. More recently, she sees painting as a way to record and show life in the refugee camp, a storytelling tool to share the refugees’ stories with the world.
- Elias Mukengere, a painter and author from Congo, shared the meaning of his artwork and the inspiration behind it. He is a drawer, draftsman, painter and comics author. It is since 2017, after his studies, that he has devoted himself entirely to Art as a profession. He is now the author of several murals, and several paintings and has already worked on several comic strips, including “Aminata BD”.
To watch the artist’s performances, visit Samuel Hall’s Instagram page.
- The event allowed for the general narrative around migrants and refugees to move beyond that of victimization and affirm their talents, dignity, and the right to speak for themselves going beyond the labels they are forced to wear and to be defined by labels (if any) that they want to wear based on their skills and talents.
- The event showcased a live exhibition of “Photos and Lifelines of Migrant Youth” from Samuel Hall’s forth-coming research on “Migrant Youth Integration with KNOMAD” in Nairobi, as well as artwork from refugee and migrant artists.