Written by Maisha Yetu Staff writer.
October 23-29, 2011, in Chiang Mai, Thailand
The event was concluded in the early week of November on a high note in Chiang Mai,Thailand, with Kenya being represented by a bastion of energy, creativity, and visionary young leadership. Kenya’s Maisha Yetu founder Muki Garang was among the 30 diverse young artists between the ages 23-43 with performances,sharing,debates and healing process.
In carrying forth its objective using music and theatre as tools for community empowerment, Maisha Yetu continues to engage in a number of socially conscious projects such as the world Jam 2011, collaborating with institutions such as Ashoka foundation,Kwanmuang Institute for Contemplative Learning and YES! Youth for Environmental Sanity.
Maisha Yetu has been on the forefront to empower artists, who are the reflection of the community. Muki Garang noted “I have to admit the Jam session in Punpun,Chiang Mai opened my third eye wider thus leading to a paradigm shift.” He continues to say “ it was an incredibly opportune forum to learn from one another and build connections beyond national boundaries. I was challenged by fellow artists to push my art and social engagement to the next level.”
Institutes like the Kwanmuang Institute for Contemplative Learning and YES! Youth for Environmental Sanity, promote non-violent communication, environmental justice, holistic education and social responsibility in Thailand. Could this be where Maisha Yetu is headed ?
Muki says “Though at times our message in the music and theatre calls for a prudent form of action against social injustice, i do feel inclined to adopt non-violent communication because it would benefit the youth in long term ways.”
In music parlance a “jam” is a creative, live gathering of talented musicians who spontaneously create a new sound on stage. “The new music is always greater than the sum of its parts,” says Ocean Robbins, one of the organisers of the Bangkok event.
Although he did not attend the Bangkok jam, at the heart of the weeklong event was another Kenyan, Salim Mohamed of Ashoka organization, who since 2005 has been a facilitator for gathering of young leaders organized by the Global Collaborative initiative.
Among the artists in Bangkok were founders and leaders of organizations around the world working for just, thriving, and sustainable ways of life in their societies. The change-makers reflected on their work and exchanged ideas and insights with their peers.
Other African activists were Mali-based Senegalese author, Coumba Toure, who writes children’s books, such as the much-acclaimed Bama’s Twins, Jocelyne Yennenga Kompaore (Burkina Faso) and Egyptian activist Motaz Attalla.
To date, there have been 38 jams held on five continents, bringing together young leaders from more than 65 nations. The events are sponsored by the California-based Global Youth Leadership Collaborative, which began its work in 2006.
In the face of global recession, the artist-leaders and activists deliberated on alternative affirmative solutions, says Ocean Robbins.
The organisers chose Bangkok as the venue for this year’s event because it is the only country in South East Asia that has never been colonized by European powers. “It is also home to Nuttarote Wangwiyoo, a long-time YES! partner, jam facilitator and Global Collaborative member who offered to host the world jam in his home country,” said Salim Mohamed.
The venue of the meeting rhymed with the theme of the event. The participants were hosted at the renowned Punpun Centre for Self-Reliance in Chiang Mai to the northwest, where lush jungles and cultural richness surrounded them.
The centre uses organic farming and natural seeds for its cultivation. Its buildings are made from readily available, local, natural materials using adobe (sundried mud bricks), straw, clay, bamboo, stone and second-hand salvaged materials.
Solar energy is used for heating water that runs in the bathrooms, and electricity is mainly used for lighting purposes in the evenings. The participants received live lessons on environment-friendly self-reliance from Jon Jandai, the Punpun Centre co-founder.
“I was fully inspired by Jon’s speech and the least I would do in his honor is to capture his words in poetry,” said Muki Garang, whose poetry performances at the event were videotaped and will be hitting the web soon.