Empowerment Through Art (TEDxKibera Event)

TEDxKibera is an independently organized Ted event whereas TED is a non-profit with a global set of conferences devoted to ideas worth spreading.

TEDxKibera was born in 2009 August the 15th when Otieno Gomba among other speakers took to the stage to speak to the audience which is why it was conceived to share and discuss new ideas while indentifying new speakers to share experiences of their journey to excellence.

After this very first event, a couple of events followed and this time it was time to do it again. The event was held on the 13th August 2011 at the renovated Mchanganyiko hall bringing together men and women around Nairobi to spark a discussion that was focusing on the theme, “Empowerment through Art”. Being the MC of the day, it was such a difficult task to gauge the mood of the audience but everything began to work out just fine when the artist speakers started doing what they know best.

First on stage was Boniface Mwangi, who is a freelance photographer, a TED fellow, Magnum fellow, Acumen fellow and has won awards twice as the CNN multichoice African photojournalist of the year 2008/2010, sees the world through the lenses of the camera as he takes photos all the time. He grew up in a slum just like most of the others and he encourages fellow Kenyans to make use of available resources however scarce to make a difference in their lives.


Ngwatilo Mawiyoo, whose talent is undisputed across, and beyond, the African continent, a native of Nairobi, a poet, performer, actress and musician. A keen observer and devoted student of the written word, started her talk by reciting one of her poems …

Lauded “a priest of the art of performed poetry,” Ngwatilo has presented her work at major African and European festivals, and also enjoys creating unique collaborative poetry-in-performance concepts independently and in association with various cultural institutions. Her first EP album “Introducing Ngwatilo” (2011) offers a sampling of her solo work and her latest collaborative explorations with musicians.

Ramadhan Obiero, the coordinator of Sisi ni Amani in Baba Dogo, a leader of the band Kale Leo, and Director of the “We Are Watching You” project which engages communities through music and performances to create a culture of vigilance and political accountability. Recently awarded a Fellowship with the    Acumen Fund east African Fellow Program was able to share with the audience of how he reached where he is now. He says that it was not easy at all for his father never saw a future in music as an industry to venture into. He defied all this and chose to focus on music for this was like a calling.  He is now this opportunity to reach out to as many young people in Kenya as possible before the 2012 elections, raising awareness and promoting peace through art.


With his artistic dressing style, Otieno Gomba took the audience by surprise when he rose to share his story ha! ha! ha! kind of laughter. Having made friends with a sign-writer who agreed to train him for two years, he met another street sign-writer, Otieno Kota in the year 2000, who invited him to work with him and they formed the famous Maasai Mbili art center.  Later they were able to acquire a studio premises in Kianda Village, Kibera where they are still located. The studio membership has increased to the present 8 members .

Gomba and the artists of Maasai Mbili have since been involved in numerous community based projects especially those involving kids from the immediate neighborhood. The artists also make work to exhibit in Kenya and abroad. The most amazing thing about him is that it was clear for him that he loves Kibera and he is real about it. He is indeed a true inspiration and a reflection of what is possible even with little resources in Kibera.

“A big name, being honored by dignitaries, living large is not what defines me as a person! It’s what I do that defines who iam. I come from a family full of professionals, layers, doctors name them, but I had to choose what I liked doing which is off course singing”. Sara Mitaru an afro-soul musician is indeed passionate about her carrier.


Kennedy Odede was the last speaker on stage and being a community organizer and social justice advocate who is recognized worldwide, He admitted that he has been living in Kibera and truly believes that problems of Kibera can only be solved by the residents. He believes that one day no child will have to suffer if the global community came together to help.

After his talk, the event came to an end with mingling as everyone grabbed a drink and some mandazi. This was an opportunity I used to get contacts of 2 people who are leading organizations here in Kibera, this will really help for our networking course. The whole event was a big success and we look forward to many more.


About Sande Wycliffe

I am a motivated community leader living and working in the Kibera slum. The power of information exchange can change Kibera and bring about unity of purpose.
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