The project is simple:
1. Enter the lives of 20 diverse* rural Kenyan families and their communities.
2. Live as they live for 10 days (each).
3. Document your experiences of doing and observing their activities
4. Record their own accounts (interviews, etc).
*'Diverse': Find families that live in varying geographical locations, from varying ethnicities, religions, economic status, occupations and family structure.
How it all happened:
The Ngwatilo Kenya Project is borne out of artist and thinker Ngwatilo Mawiyoo's creative journey as a poet and musician. The journey starts in 2004, when she won a fellowship to discover whether Kwaito music was created by emerging South African Youth identity following the fall of apartheid, or was an expression of that emerging identity. The research topic came out of her interest in ethnomusicology, which she had begun to study as part of her music degree coursework.
She left with a brand new interest in poetry and went back to school to take classes in creative writing and literature. Which brings us to 2006, when she won another fellowship to research and write a manuscript of poems around the idea of home. She read the thinking and creative works of writers like Ngugi wa Thiongo and Derek Walcott, under close mentorship of her professor Duriel Harris, listened to Lizz Wright, Meshell Ndegeo'cello and Eric Wainaina. Through them and other artists and thinkers she considered life in the diaspora, her formative years, what it meant to be "Kenyan," at home and abroad.
During that period and in the years after she questioned memory itself, her shifting identities in each country, her lineage, the postcolonial moment in which she lived, blackness and womanhood. Her journey required that she come home and ask old and new questions of herself and her family, broader questions of her community: she needed to define her community, first it's urban and global expressions and now in its local, rural expression.
We arrive at the present: Ngwatilo increasingly lives into the meaning of her name "to hold on to", anchoring. Her mission is two part: to hear, record and digest who rural Kenyans are, how they imagine and live out their lives, and to share these learnings with you.