Before the deadly coronavirus pandemic disrupted every aspect of our lives, Nakuru’s quest to attain an art city status was headed to the World conference in Bonn, Germany.
Nakuru-based renowned art manager and film actor Barbushe Maina had set the stage and rehearsed a 30-minute script to present at the global conference from April 1 on why Nakuru should be the next theatre and art city in Africa.
However, as fate would have it, Mr Maina who is also the vice-chairperson of Nakuru Players Theatre Society, has been forced to postpone his visit to Bonn. Germany is one of the European countries affected by coronavirus.
Mr Maina was hoping to make a strong case on why the cosmopolitan town should get a theatre city status.
The outbreak of Covid-19 has infected more than 56,000 Germans so far and around 200 have died. Tens of thousands in the world have been affected and the death toll keeps rising every day.
The historic visit that would have changed the creative art industry in Nakuru town now hangs in the balance.
“I was ready to present a concept paper why Nakuru is the hotbed of theatre and with global support, it could be the next theatre hub in Africa,” said Mr Maina.
He spoke during a recent sensitisation workshop for stakeholders on the 2005 convention and the Unesco International Fund for Cultural Diversity on March 9-10 in Nakuru town.
Mr Maina’s ambitious project was hoping to rectify this notion that has been in the minds of the residents for the past 57 years.
The project had identified the sprawling Flamingo and Kimathi estates which are strategically located along Flamingo Road which is the gateway to Lake Nakuru National Park. Lake Nakuru National Park is one of the most visited parks in Kenya.
However, residents in the densely populated estates of Lake View, Flamingo, Kimathi, Mwariki and Phase Two have nothing to show for the billions of shillings generated from the heritage next door.
The sporadic corporate social responsibilities goodies by Kenya Wildlife Service has not transformed their lives either.
“The two estates which comprise about 435 units have a lot of potential in the art world and our plans is to go deeper into the estates and rebrand the walls with wildlife pictures, water falls, birds, valleys and water found at the park in a bid to whet the appetite of local and international tourists heading to Lake Nakuru National Park,” said Mr Maina.
The project has been pending since 2008 when it was launched by rebranding 36 walls before it stopped due to logistics challenges.
The project dubbed Urukan City is pegged along the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It seeks to create an economic space to generate income to the growing number of unemployed youth. It also hopes to reduce poverty levels and crime in the community.
The SDG goal number 14, which puts emphasis on aquatic life, will prominently be displayed to help the community come up with ideas on how to turn the lake into an income generating venture through activities like boat riding.
“The project will be a mirror of Nakuru town, its people and the opportunities available in the economic value chain,” added Mr Maina.
A terror gang popularly known as Confirm which has swindled Kenyans millions of shillings through fake telephone money transactions operate in the two estates.
“These criminal activities are as a result of lack of jobs and this project aims at creating jobs that will enable idle youth engage in gainful economic activities,” said Mr Maina.
Mr David Kisero, an artist from Flamingo estate supports the project and says it’s a visionary idea that is long overdue.
“This is great idea as it will unearth local talent. However, the paintings on the walls should not be restricted to wildlife only, we should also draw local artists like Jua Kali and others to inspire the upcoming creative artists,” said Mr Kisero.
Mr Sane Wadu, an artist who unsuccessfully launched a similar project, said it is a good idea that should be pursued despite its challenges.
Mr Tony Kiguta, a designer said it is a robust idea whose objectives can be achieved.
“The project should not be confined at the entrance of Lake Nakuru National Park but it should be extended to other gateways of the towns,” said Mr Kiguta.
Ms Emily Njeru, Deputy Director Arts at Kenya National Commission for Unesco said the project is worth supporting as it will benefit the entire community.
Mr Maina said to overcome some of the challenges, the project is engaging all stakeholders through public participation.
He believes that once the project is up and running, hundreds of youth will get jobs as painters, photographers, interpreters and tour guides.
“Tourists will make a stopover and engage locals and this will spur businesses associated with tourism and transform the gang- infested area into a thriving economy,” added Mr Mr Maina.
Mr Maina said international artists will be invited to train young aspiring artists.
“The background pictures on the walls can be used by photographers to be their one stop office for business and make money five meters from their doors,” he added.
He said the walls will also be branded with different art impressions by international artists.
“The international artwork will make the visiting tourists feel at home and be part of the whole project,” said Mr Maina.
As one moves towards the main entrance of the park, an art creation nature train will be another attraction.
“The nature train will be managed by the community and there will be a lot of activities including planting of the vegetation that can be used in production of natural products,” said Mr Maina.
Already the youths are growing stinging nettle for sale. The project is collaborating with UBUNTU creative arts group and is planning to set up a creative art exhibition centre near the park.
There will be a monthly activity of young people with a bias on hip hop culture. They will print T-shirts, banners and other merchandise for sale.
The open ground at Kimathi estate will be used as an arena to entertain tourists heading to park.
The project is collaborating with Elementaita Residence Owners Association, a creative group to turn Nakuru into a thespian talent.
The project will also focus on climate change that has seen a rise in water levels at the lake. The community will be sensitised on the conservation of the environment through art.