Wajukuu Art Project is a community-based organization situated in the Lunga-Lunga neighborhood of the Mukuru slum in Nairobi.
The project was established in 2004 by a group of artists with a common goal: to make Mukuru a place where children can thrive and to create employment through the production and sale of quality artworks.
Mukuru slum sits on a hillside below the factories that make up the industrial area of Nairobi. A nearby dumpsite draws youth from the slum, who are largely shut out from employment in the factories that pollute their community. Scavenging for items to sell is one of the few economic opportunities available to them. Many eventually turn to crime and selling drugs. Violence and sexual assault are all too common, jeopardizing their well-being and claiming the lives of many young victims. From this landscape, Wajukuu emerged, a testimony to the resilience and capacity of people to transmute suffering into beauty.
Art forms the backbone of Wajukuu. It is understood not just as a practice but a way of life. Through art classes, Wajukuu empowers children and youth to cope with daily challenges, and speak out against injustices imposed on them. A community library, the first in Mukuru, provides a safe space for students and adults to study. Documentary screenings and mural painting address various topics such as conflict resolution, crime prevention, culture practices, gender equality, health, teen pregnancy, and youth decision-making. This way, Wajukuu creates a platform for the community to fully participate in the issues affecting them.
Killing Fear of the Unknown, the collective’s contribution to the exhibition, is an architectural installation at documenta Halle, inspired by the Maasai Manyatta (traditional housing for the Maasai People of East Africa) and the informal aesthetics in the slums. Visitors enter a tunnel to experience multimedia expressions by Wajukuu-affiliated artists. Apart from a documentary, Wajukuu presents delicately refined objects, including a sculpture of a pedaled knife sharpener.
Wajukuu’s participation in documenta fifteen culminates in a sustainability project, in which the collective will secure a permanent project space, financially empower members, and share insight and techniques in woodwork workshops. Wajukuu’s project anchors on conservation and reinvention of cultural heritage, both aspects evident in a folklore publication collaborating with senior storytellers and a site-specific intervention.
Arts Taste Curiocity (at&c Nairobi)
Charles Muthumbi Githinji
Eric Gitonga Mong’orion
Lawrence (Shabu) Mwangi
Victor Chege Gatugi
Yong Sun Gulach