By Grace Mwende – A2ES coordinator

Is human trafficking an issue in Kenya? That was my first question when I was approached with this project. After attending my first workshop with HAART, I was completely taken aback by my own level of ignorance on the magnitude, scope and sheer closeness of the issue! I knew that if I don’t have a clue about what’s going on right in front of me, then the majority of people in Kenya must also be alarmingly unaware. I knew I had to get involved. I knew I had the opportunity to raise awareness and use my own unique way in which it could be done.

HAART had the idea to embark on an out-of-the-box project to spread the word about this horrible trade. This project is called Arts 2 End Slavery. It is a project focusing on the arts, both visual and performance, as an avenue to raise awareness against human trafficking. We have brought together 30 prominent artists from all over the world who are all based in Kenya to depict the various types of human trafficking and bring the message across in creative ways. Through mediums such as paintings, photography, pencil and ink, collages, sculptures, graphic design, and even art made from waste materials in the slums of Nairobi, we seek to bring the magnitude and reality of the issue home in an impact exhibition to be held throughout the month of May this year. The exhibition will move to four different galleries around the city, for one week each, so that we can reach as many people as possible around the city with this information. We would like to take the exhibition to the major University campus halls around Nairobi in June 2015 to further raise awareness among the youth who are at a sensitive age to be lured, enticed and trafficked. Each artist has met with me multiple times to make sure that their concept is accurately researched and that we are correctly representing that particular aspect of human trafficking fully. Meetings with the artists have been eye-opening too, as they have shared aspects of human trafficking that directly affect them or people in their neighbourhoods who became aware of trafficking only after engaging in this project. This month I will continue the training and concept meetings with various artists, averaging five to six artists each week, to make sure the art is coming together seamlessly and that the message is coming across clearly and powerfully.

This has been an informative, heart-opening project for me, and for all of the artists involved. We are pleased with the pace of progression and are looking forward to the unveiling of it all.  We appreciate your support, time, resources and anything else you have and will give to this project and the further raising of awareness about this horrific matter. It really does have a huge impact when everyone does their own small part, right where they are. May we all truly be inspired to create the change we want to see in our world.