Saturday, 25 July 2015

Revisiting Kenya with Obama

President Obama's visit to Kenya has reminded me of Mike Wamaya's ballet classes in one of the toughest districts of Nairobi. I wrote about them in What can be achieved by a good teacher 3 March 2013 and Back to Africa 7 Jan 2015. I have found an interview with this remarkable teacher with this video of some of his students on the International Performers Aid trust website.

In his interview Wamaya says:
"Since the set up of Anno’s Africa in Kenya seven years ago, we have experienced significant results. The children now find school fun and by this their levels of concentration while studying have gone up. The program explores their individual human potential and creativity in a much broader sense; who they are, what they think and believe, what they want for their futures. This has brought a lot of confidence and self-esteem in them."
It is clear from the interview that Wamaya's students have learned some valuable lessons from his classes quite apart from pliés and tendus. 

According to the About IPAT page of its website "the International Performers’ Aid Trust is a charity created for the relief of poverty amongst people involved in the performing arts in distress in all parts of the world."  It supports projects in Africa, Asia, South America, Europe and the Middle East, Mike Wamaya's classes seem to be its only dance project.

Unless a student from Sub-Saharan Africa leaves for an advanced country at a very young age it is hard to see how he or she could make a career in ballet. There are very few schools and even fewer companies between the Mediterranean and the Cape and the few that do exist are concentrated in South Africa. But Africa is changing. It is becoming more prosperous and greater prosperity will provide a market for the performing arts. Even if few of Wamaya's students make it on stage a fair proportion of them should be able to afford the best seats in the auditorium and thereby provide a market for the next generation.

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