Dozens of youths and women in Kajiado on Sunday got a chance to sharpen their drawing and painting skills in a unique programme to beautify Maili 46 town in Kajiado West Sub-county.
The project, dubbed “The art town”, saw international painters and artists collaborate with locals to transform the sleepy town that is now becoming a tourist attraction.
The project aims to transform the village into a vibrant Maasai art village. Through the power of paint and creative expression. The project is rejuvenating the village, celebrating Maasai culture and instilling a sense of pride in the community.
Over the years, the remote town, located 46 miles from Kajiado County headquarters along the Kajiado-Magadi metre gauge railway line, has been a sleepy town despite its high potential in agribusiness and livestock trade, consisting of a few permanent old buildings and iron sheets made into kiosks set in clusters. The rusted iron sheets have always stolen the glory of the town, but now it has received a major facelift.
In the first phase of the one-and-a-half-month project, ten talented local youths received rigorous drawing and painting training from experts.
The idea came from a Norwegian citizen currently living in Kenya who visited the town during the recent drought and witnessed the mass death of livestock. He decided to give them hope through art as an alternative source of income.
At present, at least 150 business kiosks have been artistically painted. Some of the kiosks have drawings that convey different messages, especially to the youth and the entire community from culture, technology, crime, and religion among others.
Now the town has turned into a drawing town with women, youths and children competing to outdo each other with unique drawings and paintings. The best piece of iron sheet art and the best painter were rewarded during the launch of the artwork on Saturday.
Most of the youths said they had realised their artistic talent and vowed to explore more opportunities in the global market in future. Solomon Parasayo, 23, said by interacting with renowned artists, he had been able to hone more skills and network to take his talent to the next level.
"I interacted with some of the best painters and artists during the project. It was a learning platform. I realised that I can make a career through painting," he said.
His views were echoed by Francis Koilel, 30, who said the project had been an eye-opener for young people and women.
Parents praised the initiative, saying it was an eye-opener and a big boost in the fight against drug abuse and crime among youths.
"We are optimistic that talented youths will find an opportunity in the arts and the idleness that leads to crime and drug abuse among youths will be reduced," said Esther Sinet, a local.
Crown Paint Human Resources Manager Nicholas Wanambisi said the company had partnered with the volunteer painters to tap into their talents and provide an alternative means of earning a living through tourism.
He urged the youths to tap into their artistic talents, saying the world had become a global village where they could market their artworks online and earn a living.
"We have partnered with painters and artists focusing on women and youths from this remote area and by beautifying the kiosks, the traders will attract more customers. We want to transform the lives of individuals through art. Art is a powerful way of communicating and presenting messages to the community," said Wanambisi.
For now, tourists drawn by the artistic drawings are flocking to the area, mingling with locals and giving the long-dormant town an economic boost.