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
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
"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.