Lake Simbi

Today was fun and especially amusing. We travelled about 2 hrs out to Lake Simbi in Homa Bay County. Before we arrived we were told that the lake was formed after a volcanic eruption that happened many years ago. Oh yes, and that it would be full of Flamingos. Although when we arrived, we were told that lake was formed after locals arrogantly refused to shelter a woman who sought refuge there. There was only a very small flock of flamingos on the opposite side of the lake, but when we tried to get close the Flamingos took off. The lake is also believed by many locals to be medicinal, with healing and curing powers… Lets just say I’m glad I didn’t need any spiritual healing today!… No but, the scenery surrounding the lake was beautiful and I’m glad we spent the day exploring. It was such a nice sunny day, and a perfect, picturesque location for our picnic lunch! A lovely last day spent with the students and staff of Rongo University.


Last day at Rongo

Today was our final day working with the students at Rongo University. Together in the photography group we worked to write an introduction on Luo culture and community for the exhibition, covering the importance of the Lake for Luo people, how it brings them together, and then finally discussing the Luo dances the Kagan villagers performed. After lunch the day went from quite laidback to a mad rush, where I was trying really hard to put a simple digital storyboard together of all our chosen photographs for the exhibition. I think this is the most stressed I had felt throughout the whole trip. Having tried to use 3 different softwares on my Mac to do this, but on each software there was always something restricting me. The others in the group either didn’t have their own laptop and if they did they had no software for producing a digital storyboard. I joined a few guys from the film group who said they would help me put one together using Final Cut Pro. After we imported the photos and arranged them into order based on their theme, we realised that because the photos had been imported as a RAW file they were far to big to be seen within the small frame provided on Final Cut Pro. I was stressing majorly at this point! Although there wasn’t much we could do before the end of the day. I just felt really bad for the film guys who worked so hard to help me and then I had to tell them to not worry about finishing it. Fortunately the exhibition isn’t until the end of April so when I get back to Brighton I’ll nag some of my film friends to help me out then. 😉

Day 11 – reflections from the trip organiser

Day 11 and our final full day of participatory learning through community media partnerships is ahead of us tomorrow (day 12). We might not have internet connectivity from here on in and I’m not sure if I can even upload this but I will give an outline of yesterday’s activities and post as and when I can.

After the raw content collection at the Kagan Village with the Luo dancers and subsequent visit to various politicos and bureaucrats (including the Director of Culture; the Chief Officer; The County Secretary & the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning at Homa Bay County Government the previous day – this was production day. Brain storming; ideas sharing; storyboarding; transition and links recordings and editing was the nature of the day. The students worked flat out all day and progress was evident – as at times was the frustrations of the creative collaborations!

Moving between the various groups – suggesting ideas; listening to collaborative dialogue and decision making and resolving conflicts – I was impressed by the levels of engagement and commitment of all participants. I’ve said it before but it is worth saying again – I am incredibly proud of all participants of the CM4K 2016 collaborations. It has been amazing & so are the participants. Special shout-out to Lewes Bridson this time…as he was working on ploughing through 9 hours of video data yesterday night in an important sense-making exercise in readiness for the final editing sessions in Kenya.

This has been a particularly successful field-trip and I have high hopes that we have reached an important watershed for CM4K. The students of the LM376 Community Project module in the School of Art, Design & Media at the University of Brighton have been absolutely incredible and I salute them. I’m going to close this off for now. If I get a chance to upload the post I will include picture of the discussions at Homa Bay County Government as well as a few of the participants collaborating at Rongo University. That’s all for now. Watch out for the next post as Maasai Mara here we come J

Rongo, editting, session 2

So we have gathered pretty much all our data now. It has been a totally different experience than at KU, but still a fantastic one. Our audio team is such a hard working team and they seem to like editting which is a good thing. Everybody is getting stuck in. Today, I taught some students how to clear up a track and a basic steps of how to organise the editting process as it can be overwhelming. I mainly assisted students who needed help and worked on making a plan for our podcast so our ideas could flow. The structure is absolutely vital in order to have an idea of where the show is going. We have selected our hosts and they have been practicing the voice over. We can use th jingle we made at KU since it was fun and funky. Spreading responsibility across the team worked well, this enabled each person focus on their task and learn as they were doing the editting. Sometimes, I can get a big impatient as I just want to get the task done, but I refrain myself, and slowly guide the learner step by step until the job is completed. It is really rewarding when the student feels happy and smiles, when they have finally completed their task. That is  the best reward !  


Getting to grips with Kenyan culture

When travelling I appreciate the differences. I like to observe, participate and learn about different modes of living. There are so many different ways of doing things and I believe that travelling is a wonderful way to expands ones horizon and to questions ones own habit. Cultural diversity is precious and enriching. For example, women and men carrying bags in their heads, the Kenyan approach to time, respect for the elders and especially the mother, and the open way of reaching out  to one another. I feel like in the last week or so, I am finally getting to grips with the Kenyan game. I am getting an idea of the unspoken social rules going around. I still have so much to learn. But the flavour of Kenyan culture that I have tasted so far, including the delicious fruits makes me want to come back to gain a deeper understanding of Kenya. With the connection I have made through the CM4K expereience, I hope that I will be able return here to pursue my learning out here, maybe not academically but personal growth and development. I am so happy that I am part of CM4K.  



Half day at Rongo

Today we had only half a day Rongo University as Peter had kindly given us the morning off to sleep in and relax a bit. After most of the group said that they would love to have a lie in, Elle and I were the only ones to take advantage of this on the day haha. Anyway the bus picked us up at 1pm and took as too the uni ready for lunch. After lunch we got together with the photography group where we looked at the photos that Elle and I had organised into folders of the ones we liked and the ones we didn’t. We did this in our own time as we thought it would be more productive if we had 100 photos each to present to the group rather than 800 each to go through and decide whether we liked them or not. We hooked the laptop up to the HD TV and flicked through them like that. The photos looked great on a big screen and made it much easier to decide based on image quality, framing etc. By the end of the day we had narrowed down to 60 photographs that we plan to use in the exhibition.

Days 7 – 10 reflections from the trip organiser

20160127_125835 20160127_134115 20160127_134135Days 7 -10 have seen a complete change of rhythm and location. Gone are the long traffic jams and urban creativity of Kenyatta University and in are the bumpy dusty roads and more laid back but equally confusing schedules for the day at Rongo University. Confusing in that a course of action is agreed one minute only to be changed on the way and yet somehow things seem to get done!

Day 7 was as I indicated in my last blog a day of transfer. Some 7 to 8 hours in the Rongo University bus – not the most comfortable bus in the world but we were met in Nairobi by Isabelle from Rongo and she is always pleasant company. Little to be noted about the trip for me apart from the notable stopover in Narok and the disgraceful, money grabbing service at the Kenoil Petrol station restaurant, which used to be really nice but no more! I will never take a party there again and that is all that really needs to be said about that! It is always nice to stop at the Rift Valley view point and watch the students’ face as the take in the scale and scope of the wonder that is the Kenyan Rift Valley. At the bottom of the hill on the left is the most picturesque glad filled with beautiful Acacia trees, directly opposite from a small Catholic church built by Italian POWs during the 2nd World War. We arrived in Rongo at around 8pm to be greeted by all our friends from previous visits (as well as the great news that Chelsea had defeated Arsenal 0-1 – always a cheery bit of news to receive). After a a welcoming meal we were accompanied to our digs for the week and a good night’s sleep.

Breakfast on day 8 was most welcomed but before that we were officially welcomed by the Principal Prof Samuel Gudu, who is always so pleased to see us and so hospitable. After our repast we got down to business – kicked off by an introduction to this year’s project by Prof Jerry Agalo and a contextualisation lecture from me introducing students to Community Media as tools, spaces and processes for community empowerment, capacity building and voice. This took us up to lunch and gave the students time to reflect and socialise before kicking off the pre-production planning meetings for the 3 different groups – audio, video & photography. They spent the afternoon shaping and refining their own take on the project before presenting their ideas in plenary. As an educator committed to the PEARLS approach to Commnity-based Learning, it did my heart good to see how engaged all the participants were not only with each other but with the tasks they were creating. It was a really great session and whilst all the students did well, Oscar Faina was particularly articulate and passionate in presenting the video group’s ideas.

Day 9 saw us head off to Kagan village someway outside the town of Homa Bay – an area with some significant problems of poverty and social deprivation. We were greeted by the Kagan dancers from the Luo tribe who introduced us the tribal practices and customs of Luo culture through their dances and music. It was a fantastic experience and a great way to start of this embryonic research project – I dare say I will be speaking more about this in much more depth in future trips but the outline of this project is crystallising in my mind and day 10 will see us test it on politicos and bureaucrats (not my favourite folk in the world but tomorrow I have a job to do!). I think this was a significant day for the students….it was certainly enjoyable and also tiring and I am conscious that they are getting tired. I always try to factor in a down day for R&R but for some reason it has not happened this year and the guys are getting tired. I will leave them to explain and articulate their perceptions of this once in a lifetime day.

Day 10 was one of those days that we start with a plan which changes at every twist and turn of the hardened mud roads. After a last minute courtesy visit to the District Commissioner we set off to see the County Director of Culture at Homa Bay. She was in a meeting at the local airport (which was just opening up to international or at least national flights – this is a big deal and many dignitaries at national level were there so we slipped down the agenda). We had planned to visit the fishing market on the Lake (Victoria) for some contextualising photos. With little else to do we turned the next few hours into down time and the students took a boat trip and loads of photos. Eventually, the County politicos and bureaucrats were ready to see us and after 45 minutes of tourist spiel and taking phone calls when talking to us both Prof. Agalo and I decided to intervene. I refocussed the direction of the discussions and woke him up to the fact that we were looking to develop a serious research project in their County and beyond. At this the demeanour changed and Prof. Agalo explained what we were looking for from the potential partnership. At this point we were urged to make a courtesy call to the Minister of Finance and the County Secretary, who welcomed us in within a matter of minutes and pledged to develop a partnership with us and craft a memorandum of understanding with us to work as partners. This was a significant breakthrough and now we just need to write the proposal and secure funding! 🙂

However,  I was feeling very sorry for the students as I had promised them the afternoon off in recognition of their amazing commitment but before we knew it, it was 5pm and we headed back to Rongo. I have decided to give them the morning off tomorrow. This means we will only have 1.5 days for editing as Saturday has now been arranged as a trip to Obama’s homeland and a visit to a volcanic lake complete with pink flamingos. I think the students are more interested by the latter than the former but both will be great I am sure. For the first time we might have to finish editing when we get home as these are very adventurous and complex project.

Homa Bay

Today was interesting. We drove down to Homa Bay so that the audio and film guys could go interview the County Director of Homa Bay. As we arrived into Homa Bay, Jerry and Peter had received a call to say that the Director was in an important meeting so we would have to wait to meet with them later on. We drove towards Homa Bay Pier where we parked and from there we had a wander round and checked out the Lake and local Fish market where the photography group (my group) wanted to get some contextualizing photographs of the lake, boats and fish to introduce our exhibition on the Luo people. It was a good day out; we got some great photos of locals, the fish market, African stalks and the Lake. And we were also lucky enough to go on a boat trip on the Lake in a rustic looking fishing boat. 🙂


Researching tribal cultures

today we went to visit a Luo community to collect media information about this community in order to produce represententional knowledge about this community. This encounter was meaningful and powerful,. I I was in a national geographic scenario. The colours, the sounds, the music and staring face create a powerful ambiance. The woman were screaming and the men were hunting and singing.  Each dance were scenario, and rituals performed after an elder died, or a marriage and so forth. The energy was contagious and I felt stimulated by their energy. The local community seemed to be happy that we had come to see their performance. To me this interaction was meaningful and I felt I had t he responsibility to document this cultural dance, without stereotyping their culture. I was trying to records sounds which were atmospheric and which represent the meaning of the dance to this community. I hope that we can work with these recording and enable the listeners to feel touched by the sounds, without any visual purely the sound…