Art

Children’s art a hit on Lamu Island

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Fatima’s Lamu Hiding Models painting at Kijani Hotel, in Lamu. PHOTOS | POOL

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Summary

  • Anidan is a children’s home on Lamu island started by one lone Spaniard whose heart went out to the orphans and abandoned children.
  • Rafael Selas Colorado went home to Spain in 2002 to raise funds to start a center that has impacted not just hundreds of children – giving them shelter, food, clothing, health care, but also education.

Anidan is a children’s home on Lamu island started by one lone Spaniard whose heart went out to the orphans and abandoned children.

Rafael Selas Colorado went home to Spain in 2002 to raise funds to start a center that has impacted not just hundreds of children – giving them shelter, food, clothing, health care, but also education.

It also transformed the lives of countless artists who have been sharing their skills with the youth ever since professional photographer Corrie Wingate came to Lamu in 2013.

She had come to run a short photography workshop for the children and ended up like Rafael. She too saw the children’s immense potential, especially their thirst for creative expression. It inspired her to enlist friends and philanthropists like the British art collector Robert Devereaux to help her set up Anidan’s Art Center in 2017 and establish artists residencies for Kenyan artists to come to teach children to do art.

“I could see that art had been pulled from the Kenyan curriculum, yet these children were hungry for artistic expression,” says Corrie who’s enlisted international support for the Centre. “The Kobo Trust family and one Italian known only as Leo helped build the actual art centre,” Corrie adds. “But during the lockdown, it was Kenyan artists who pooled their resources and sent the children a big box of art materials.”

Currently, Anidan artists are having an exhibition of their work at the Kijani Hotel.

“We have annual exhibitions and have won many MASK [children’s art] awards,” says Corrie who notes how Anidan artists, ranging from age seven through 18, have shown their art all over the island, from the Peponi Hotel and Baraka Gallery to the Lamu Fort.

“They have even exhibited in London at Saatchi Gallery as well as in Madrid and Milan,” she adds.

Anidan currently assists nearly 300 children, half of whom live at the center while the others come for meals, after-school studies, and other extracurricular activities like sports, music, computers, and art.

Only 25 children have their paintings and etchings up in Kijani Hotel. “We brought just 20 oil paintings and 17 etchings,” says Corrie, noting that prices for the work range from Sh6,000 to Sh8,000.

“The etchings are selling well,” she adds. Profits made go straight back into the purchase of more art materials.

The one exception is with the children who have reached 18 years. “We give them the funds from any sales of their art since they are technically considered adults, and need to earn a livelihood,” Corrie adds.

During the long lockdown of 2020, Anidan children were rarely visited by either local or international artists. But the good news is that two new art centers have opened up and welcomed Anidan students and graduates to come and work from their art spaces. One is run by Nyambura Wahu of The Africa Centre, the other is at Phoenix Studios founded by the Lamu-based artist known as Satan.

Meanwhile, Corrie managed to raise funds for hiring a full-time art teacher to supplement the workshop training from the Nairobi-based artists who come several times every year to teach the skills and techniques that they are both proficient in and can easily share with the children.

“I have heard people say that Anidan children are more knowledgeable about art than some of us,” says artist Bushkimani Moira, half-jokingly. ‘Bush’ had been scheduled to teach at Anidan just before the pandemic hit. “I hope to get there eventually,” she adds.

Among the artists who have already taught at the Centre are Patrick Mukabi who shared basic skills in painting and drawing, Kevin Oduor did the same with sculpture, James Njoroge taught the kids easy techniques for making collages, and Jackie Karuti showed them how to make books.

Then too, David Thuku went to Anidan to teach paper-cut art while Agnes Waruguru taught them skills in screen printing, Dennis Muraguri showed them how to make wood-cut prints and Joan Otieno shared skills for turning trash into treasured works of art.

There are scores more Kenyan artists who have gone to Anidan, courtesy of the African Arts Trust - funded artists’ residencies. They have stayed three weeks, and some return to volunteer just because they’ve found it so fulfilling to see how art can work wonders in children’s lives.

Finally, FOTA (Friends of the Arts), the anual art exhibition run by ISK (International School of Kenya) opens today online through April 22 at www.fotaisk.com.