Theatre for community development


Dec. 2, 2017, 1:35 p.m.

A group of youthful, enterprising and multi-faceted artists are redefining the role of

the performance arts by using community theatre as an avenue for communication.

Communal theatre may not be a commonplace forum in comparison to other creative

expressions such as music, dance, poetry or visual arts.

Nonetheless, the performance arts platform which remains marginalized particularly

across rural communities – has proven to be effective in provision of entertainment

and educational awareness.

Arguably, community theatre is in some parts of the country, regarded as one of the

most valuable and engaging mediums of mobilization and communication more so at

the grassroots.

Indeed in the past, this indigenous art form may have been restricted to its primary

and traditional function, which largely hinged on provision alternative recreational


But a group of performance artists working under the Youth, Arts, Development &

Entrepreneurship Network [YADEN] initiative, have adopted theatre and drama as a

tool to speak out against communal ills.

"Our community faces numerous challenges related to limited access to financial,

material resources, non-existent health, infrastructural services besides an adversely

degraded environment," says David Kirios, co-ordinator of Olma Literacy Outreach

Initiative Program (OLOIP).

This is one of the groups which regularly co-ordinates dramatized performances in

perennially sun-baked villages across Ngong division in Kajiado County.

The YADEN initiative is tailored to assist youths advance their potential into practical

skills. In the long term, this offers them opportunities to earn a decent livelihood and

also empower them actively participate in their communities' socio-cultural and

economic development.

"We are driven by vision to tap into the performing arts, which ideally can serve a

pivotal, integral part of everyday life," says Samuel Gathii, a thespian and also YADEN


Initially established in 2004 as Y-TAP (Youth Talent Advancement Program), the

initiative has grown into a community driven, innovative, inclusive and participatory

art based theatre movement.

So far, the group's focus targets marginalized and disfranchised young people as an

entry point into the wider community.

Youthful artists - actors, dancers, actresses and musicians, are brought together to

learn from one another by exchanging ideas and experiences.

"By sharing their collective skills, knowledge and information, this approach helps

unlock individual artists' entrepreneurial potentials," explains Gathii.

Skilled youths help stimulate and inspire new ideas, which are bound to inspire 'hope'

for their communities for years, socially disempowered mostly owing to widespread

and crippling poverty.

By bringing on board young people, the Olma Literacy Outreach Initiative Program

now serves as a bridge between especially the marginalized women who have no voice

in the community and outdated cultural practices.

“We realized our mothers for years have borne the brunt of myriad social grievances

related to their vastly disfranchised rights, we thus use skits and drama as a platform

to speak out against these vices,” explains Kirios.

However, these performances can only be staged mostly in schools owing to lack of

designated spaces – a setback which persists as a major hurdle in the growth and

sustenance of community theatre forums.

So far, there are no clear cut indications that proposed devolution of resources to

County Governments can tilt the stakes in favour of the creative sector’s growth at

the grassroots level.

 2 months, 3 weeks ago