Creative Commons Licence
One of the first posts that I published was What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013. At the time it was my most popular article clocking up 434 hits almost overnight. It featured a remarkable ballet class in Kibera, a district of Nairobi described by Wikipedia as "the largest slum in Nairobi, and the largest urban slum in Africa," taught by a remarkable teacher, Mike Wamaya.
As I think that Africans will make an enormous contribution to ballet (and indeed all the performing arts as well as the humanities, sciences and civilisation generally) I have revisited the topic several times (see Back to Africa 7 Jan 2015 and Revisiting Kenya with Obama 25 July 2015 and Ballet in Sub-Saharan Africa 30 April 2016). I am glad to see that the Qatari news broadcaster Al-Jazeera has also taken an interest in that class. It posted a video entitled Ballet in Kenya is a beautiful thing to its Facebook page on 15 Oct 2016 which has already attracted nearly a million hits, 12,000 "loves" or "likes" and over 16,000 shares.
Al-Jazeera has also published an article by Fredrik Lerneryd entitled Kenyan children learn ballet at Kibera slum 14 Sep 2016 Al-Jazeera. It contains pictures of Mr. Wamaya's class in Kibera and also at a school in Karen, a rather more affluent neighbourhood, where some of Mr. Wamaya's older students take lessons. In the article Mr Lerneryd refers to Cooper Rust, a US dancer who is artistic director of Dance Centre Kenya. She says that the children from Kibera prove to be just as good as those from Karen despite their lack of resources and facilities.
Most of the comments on Al-Jazeera's Facebook page are favourable but there are exceptions. One lady asks:
"To what use exactly? The charity should instead teach them practical skills that will be useful later in life"A gentleman opines:
"Ballerina? Very good dream but it must be stopped! Kenya is an ancient land with a rich and colourful past, there are many aspects of Kenyan culture that can be embraced by Kenyan youths. Why are Africans still living like colonial subjects? Helping sustain European language, religion, culture, economy at the expense of Africa and African culture! Stop"Try telling a boy or girl from any country or social background who feels compelled to dance to stop? Fat chance! The Kenyan TV station K24TV has a posted the video Ballet dance slowly gaining popularity among children in Kenya which shows that ballet is beginning to gain traction at all levels of Kenyan society. Another station KTN News shows Kenyan students training in Norway.
Ballet is no longer European. Look at the dancers from South America, East Asia and, increasingly, from South Africa in the companies of the world. Kenyans will soon be as proud of their dancers as they are of their long distance runners.