Eastlands youth unite to form new dance group

Zamaleo Afriq

Members of the Zamaleo Afriq dance during rehearsals in Huruma, Nairobi. 

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • The group has 12 members but had started out with 22.
  • The group members range between the ages of 20 to 29.

Some youth from Huruma and its neighbouring areas have come together to form a cultural dance group, Zamaleo Afriq Dance Group. The cultural performing artistes, helmed by Nancy Akoth and her assistant Kelvin Otieno Omondi, includes members from Kariobangi South, Kiamaiko and Kariobangi in Nairobi’s northeast part.

The men and women in Zamaleo Afriq, who range between the ages of 20 to 29, were all part of different dance outfits before they came together in 2018.

“I wanted us to have something that would generate incomes for us. We also brought on others who hadn’t been dancers before. In the beginning, we would simply introduce ourselves to places we heard there would be events and just ask for an opportunity to showcase ourselves,” says Nancy, who is also the group’s choreographer and trainer.

The group has 12 members but had started out with 22. Currently, three members are fully employed. The others all run small businesses that they tend to when they are not performing or at practice every Tuesday and Thursday. They hold their practices at Ngei 1 Youth Development Hall as a way of also giving back to their community and partnership.

“In the end, you still have to put something on the table. With Covid-19, establishments restricted the numbers of performers allowed to around six so we couldn’t rely on dance only,” says Kevin.

They have been able to tour the country as they perform for corporate events, government functions and also different establishment in the hospitality industry. They’ve danced at Amboseli Serena (where they have been resident entertainers during different holiday seasons), Utalii College, state functions (including President Uhuru’s opening of the Ngong SGR station and welcoming former US president Obama when he visited the country in 2018), graduations and weddings. Usually, when the split is done, each member of the group gets to take home around Sh2,500 from a gig.

“This was her (Nancy’s) dream and we’re just here to fulfil it. We want to create employment to the youth around our area. We dwell more on cultural performances as a way to preserve culture among the youth in the country. This is content is also wholesome for the family,” says Kelvin.

Nancy, being among the older members, also checks on how her members are doing, especially during these hard economic times to ensure they are not engaging in illegal or harmful activities to cope.

The group was fortunate enough to get a Sh50,000 grant from Safaricom Foundation.

“When we were starting out in 2018, we applied for the grant but were unsuccessful. There’s luck in trying, so we tried again in 2018 and got it. We bought monkey skins, sisal skirts and drums. Previously, the costumes were being worn in rotation but now we have enough for everyone to look uniform,” says Kelvin, who adds that they would still need support to get more instruments and costumes for the diversity of their content.

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