Talented refugees in Kenya showcase their artwork at a UNHCR Nairobi Exhibition


Talented refugees in Kenya showcase their artwork at a UNHCR Nairobi Exhibition

UNHCR, 10 Nov 2015

On the occasion of launching an arts livelihood project for refugees in Kenya, over 50 artists mainly from Dadaab and Kakuma camps exhibited their artwork at the Alliance Française in Nairobi, from 4th to 6th November 2015.

This first ever exhibition organized by UNHCR and its partner FilmAid earnestly began with a panel discussion involving select artists, their Kenyan mentees, UNHCR and FilmAid.

It was attended by thousands of people including officials from the Government of Kenya, foreign embassies, Kenyan artists, students, and the general public. Intricately handcrafted sculptures and paintings were displayed. Cultural dance groups from Kakuma refugee camp performed exciting Somali, Sudanese and Burundian dances.

Ambassadors and other dignitaries who spoke during the launch expressed their support for the project.

UNHCR’s Representative in Kenya said that the exhibition will be held annually with the hope of tapping as many talents as possible. “It’s important that we support these young people. Had they not been forced to flee their countries, they would probably be established artists.”

For many years, refugees in Kenya have shown their value for art. However, many of them, particularly those living in camps, do not often find opportunities to showcase their art. The “Artists for Refugees” initiative is a livelihoods and empowerment project, which provides a platform for these refugees, encouraging them to explore their talents and build their confidence under the mentorship and training of established local artists.

The project is particularly important because art is important for human expression. It is known to provide benefits such as promoting self-esteem, motivation, cultural exposure, creativity, improved emotional expression, as well as social harmony and appreciation of diversity.

Bahimba, a 44 years old refugee from Rwanda who displayed his art at the exhibition says his artwork inspires people with love. “As Rwandese people, we give out these kinds of carvings to friends and families as a sign of love. We also give them to newly married couples as souvenirs to wish them good luck in their unions.”
Mahlet Ekubey, a 21 years old Ethiopian scholar also had her art displayed at the exhibition. She is studying International Relations at the University of Nairobi and she wants to become a humanitarian worker. “This is my painting which reminds me that I have a role to play in the humanitarian world.” She says.

Established Kenyan musicians and other artists in the field of visual arts have worked closely with UNHCR on this project. Such artists have recently included Mr. Henry Ohanga, a leading Kenyan musician commonly known as Octopizzo and Mr. Victor Ndula, a renowned illustrator and cartoonist. The two artists continue to play an important role in inspiring, motivated and empowering the refugees through their mentorship.