Colour in Faith: Where our Faith Lives

Recent Press

Check out the international press that Colour in Faith has received over the last few months:

 

CNN: Why are Kenya’s Mosques & Churches Turning Yellow?
The GuardianMellow, Yellow: Kenya’s mosques and churches painted ‘in the name of love’
Houston Chronicle: Colour in Faith Project Extols Religious Pluralism Globally
Quartz: An Artist Has Painted Mosques & Churches Yellow in Kenya to Promote Peace
Huffington Post: Why Kenya’s Houses Of Worship Are Getting a Yellow Makeover
Smithsonian: This Group Celebrates Kenya’s Religious Diversity by Painting Religious Centers Yellow

Colour in Faith Launch

Check out our film sharing the ‪#‎ColourInFaith‬ Launch at the Circle Art Agency last week in Nairobi! Featuring Yazmany ArboledaNabila Alibhai, Nik Jackson, Weke Zab, Rajay Shah, Ramadhan Obiero, Wanuri Kahiu, Yvonne Owour, and many others! Thank you Sadolin Paints EA Ltd, inCommons, Heinrich Boll Foundation, PAWA 254 and Fatuma’s Voice for your support!

Colour in Faith has been nominated for UP Magazine’s award DXD (Design by Disruption), that looks at awarding key change makers in Kenyan Society that use solution based thinking to overcome challenges and succeed.

 

ABOUT

This is a project of inCOMMONS an organization focused on civic engagement and place-making with the mission of engendering tangible and personal responsibility for public spaces, culture & the environment.

CONCEPT

The idea is an art orchestration that creates a space for the expression of faith in humanity and universal values. The orchestration would bring faith outside of the walls of institutions into an experience of encounter, expression of common acceptance and tolerance, and offer the opportunity to those of many faiths to extend their reach beyond and across institutional walls. The historic culture of pluralism gets reflected upon, honoured, and expressed in the public realm.The orchestration offers an opportunity to reframe security, reclaiming it from those who use faith to justify and create instability. These cities often have long-standing travel advisories against visiting them on the basis of insecurity. The cities will offer a global invitation from the voice of those who claim cultures of warmth, peace, and acceptance. As places of historic pluralism, these landmarks will be highlighted as a point of reference for what is possible elsewhere in the world.

WHY NOW?

Kenya has in recent years been in the limelight of the global experience of a growing dominance of fundamentalist voices and acts of terror justified on religious grounds. This is particularly sad because Kenya has had a long established culture of religious acceptance, tolerance, accommodation and exchange.

These cultures are being undermined by an infusion of hardline interpretations of faith and the deepening of a global identity based on media stories about division, terrorist attacks and insecurity. The risk is a cultural confusion that would have agents of insecurity succeed in dividing these societies.

The idea is to focus on houses of worship (e.g. synagogues, churches, temples, and mosques) and colour the physical structures that hold these communities together yellow. The colour yellow would represent a physical manifestation of LOVE as the most important value in any religion. religion. The colouring of the buildings would highlight the idea that there is more that unites us than divides us as a people, African and otherwise.

PROCESS

Colour-in-Faith is being developed in partnership with in-Commons, an organisation that makes the world better by making good people common and common places good. The organisation’s model is predicated on a theory of change that attaches civic leadership and community engagement with tangible and personal responsibility for public spaces, culture and the environment.

1. UNDERSTANDING THE POSSIBILITY OF PUBLIC ART

Introduce potential collaborators to the concept of public art as a medium for social commentary and transformation. This includes providing a review of the evolution of public art over the last two decades in order to set the foundation for brainstorming and sharing the concept for feedback.

2. COLLABORATIVE INNOVATION

Consulting with local cultural innovators to orchestrate the project in a conscious, intentional and strategic way. This includes:

– Analysing our spaces, our routines and our relationships with one another. Engaging in a process of observation that would support how to better engage with our communities. 

– Building a common intention or articulating a desired interaction.

– Re-affirming and re-designing the concept as needed.

3. PROJECT PLANNING

The local leadership team will be identified (to include an artist, a community organiser, project manager) which will shoulder the majority of the implementation responsibilities. A program would be developed (could include exhibitions, workshops, panels and discussions before and after the event). Necessary support including permits and government support, corporate sponsors and media support would be sought. Budgeting, scheduling and delegation of tasks would take place.

4. PROJECT EXECUTION

The public orchestration is realised and documented (video, photography, audio, writing). After the event, organisers go through an analysis and capacity development phase. Here a public forum can be held to get witness statements and reflections. Local project leaders are guided on how the tools used can be used for creating future installations.

OUR TEAM

 

NABILA ALIBHAI
Cultural Curator

Nabila Alibhai (b. 1978) has had a long career in innovation in peace-building and civic engagement, public health and safety. She has held positions in the Aga Khan Development Network, the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration and has worked on projects in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya,Tanzania, the United States and Switzerland. She has a Master of Public Health from Yale University and is trained in conflict resolution. She was recently a mid-career fellow in MIT’s Special Program for Urban and Regional Studies in order to advance her efforts on community solidarity through public spaces. Yellow is the colour of the duckies that embellish her adulthood, in and out of bathtubs.

YAZMANY ARBOLEDA
Artist

Yazmany Arboleda (b. 1981) is a New York-based artist and trained architect who lectures internationally on the power of art in public space. In 2013, he was named one of Good Magazine’s 100 People Making Our World Better. His work has been written about in the New York Times, Washington Post, UK Post, UK’s Guardian, Fast Company, and Reuters. Arboleda’s projects range from giving away 10,000 pink balloons to grown ups in Kabul, to turning abandoned high-rise buildings in the heart of Johannesburg into Living Sculptures by literally highlighting them to draw attention to the tensions between governmental corruption and South Africa’s rampant homelessness. Yellow is the colour of the sun that keeps him hopeful (We’re completely unable to banish the night from our lives, but we’re also shockingly unable to prevent the sun from rising).

RAMADHAN OBIERO
Project Coordinator

Ramadhan Obiero is the director of the “We Are Watching You” project which engages communities through music and performances to create a culture of vigilance and political accountability. Ramadhan has experience as the Coordinator for the Vumilia Youth Group, the Stage Manager for musician Eric Wanaina in New York and Kenya, the leader of the Kale Leo Band, and the Chairman of the African Cultural Research and Education Foundation. He holds a Diploma Certificate in Community Development from the Kenya Institute of Social Work and Community Development. He is also an East African Fellow with Acumen fund.

RAJAY SHAH
Project Coordinator

Rajay is a Nairobi native currently enrolled at the University College London where he is studying BASc Arts and Sciences (Majoring in Chemistry with a minor in Cultures).  Beyond being passionate about social-constructs, he has devoted a great deal of time in the past few years working on a series of oil paintings that shed light on the human-wildlife habitat conflict and life within the slums in Kenya. He interned with the artist Syowia Kyambi and the Kuona Trust. Previously, he worked with Stand Up Shout Out, an organisation designed to empower Kenyan youth.  Yellow is the colour of the crisps that his grandmother makes to make his days a little brighter.

 

EXPECTED RESULTS, REACH AND LONG TERM IMPACT

 

 

Collective leadership

through understanding past patterns, having a dialogue that involves seeing multiple perspectives, uncovering a common will, and embodying and enacting a new way forward.

Community organisation & production capacity

of partners through leadership training, project management, an increased network and public profile.

A catalytic event

that transfers the consensus of a common community intention into the public realm. In the past, this has included engaging 10,000 people on the streets.

Press delivered to a global audience

to encourage them to ‘Think, Follow, Act.’

THE IMPORTANCE OF PUBLIC ART

Public art benefits people in many different ways. It raises awareness of issues, and awakens a sense of possibility and of belonging. It reminds us of the potential of people coming together to do something unexpected that generates a conversation, bringing into that conversation people who have felt abandoned or even ostracised by more traditional frameworks. Essential to our ethos is the local nurturing of the entire project, from identifying an issue to ideating a concept to implementing it. The people impacted tend to be diverse and often under-served by other types of activism: public art tends to bring in people who often do not take part in other potentially unifying or cathartic social debates.

BLOG

Colour In Faith is an art project grounded primarily on the idea that we all belong to each other.  While there are many diving lines that continue to thrive, I am interested in exploring how art can be used to erase boundaries.  The inspiration for my work comes from the people I encounter moment to moment in my life. Plato once wrote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Through my practice as an artist I am interested in exploring how we can be soldiers in each others’ armies collectively engaging in the sadness and joy that comes with being human.

Colour in Faith is an opportunity for self-reflection as individuals, communities and as a country about what it is that elevates us in pursuit of higher purpose. The series of terror attacks we have experienced have left us feeling powerless and as a country we struggle with how to heal and how to play an active role in steering our collective future in ways that feel relevant, meaningful, and of our choosing. For many this expresses itself as a crisis in religious identity with some seeking brotherhood in extremism. For many, there is a growing mistrust in the other and diminishing confidence in representative bodies. There is a pervasive feeling of having no control in divining the direction of our reality and having little access to decision-making processes.

Colour in Faith is a form of citizen action that is aimed at challenging our feelings of helplessness in the face of a hijacking of faith for destruction. It is a form of inclusive action aimed at rekindling a sense of positive possibility and purpose-driven action. Our methodology combines community leadership building with public art such that communities develop tools to collectively analyze their public realm and community priorities, empathize with their fellow residents, and articulate common aspirations.

This initiative also comes from recognition of the role of pleasure in social change. Forced change only builds resistance. The arts and beauty have the potential to bring comfort, project an aspired way of life, express identity, offer a moment of reflection and elevate one, even momentarily, from a state of frustration and despondency.

It’s not always easy to remember encounters with people and experiences in different places in such vividness; the words and animated conversations, the varied attire, the number of people in that painting on that wall in the dining hall. But it is easy to remember how those experiences made you feel; at least that’s what I’ve found so far with Colour in Faith. Here are a few examples of some of my experiences so far:

  • Sitting in on a church service in Kariadudu and listening to Pastor Gabriel preach about the glory of the lord, resulting in a resounding ‘Amen!’ by the audience.
  • Entering a Gurdwara in South C and being flooded by a sense of divinity as I find myself encompassed by the most incredible arrangement of mirrored and decorated glass.
  • Finding serenity and solitude as I walk down the blue-walled, airy and quiet corridors of Jamia mosque.

I was able to experience a profound sense of community, peace and joy in all of these environments, and I believe that it is so important for everyone to feel this. It is a part of human nature to create areas where we can feel love and connection. Colour in Faith is about uniting people across all faiths and religions, and celebrating what brings us together rather than what separates us. I can’t think of a better way to do this than through this grand collaborative gesture using yellow that will create beacons of hope throughout the country. It serves to remind us that at the end of the day we are all human, and that we all have the ability to love and be loved- that we all NEED to love and be loved. To me, that is everything.

Being in this process to bring humanity together is a great opportunity for me. This is the time when the world needs to know that Muslims value life and not terror. We value love not hatred. We have different faiths but we were created for common action and that is what this process means to me. As a Muslim I would love to show the world that Islam is all about peace and love #this is Islam love and peace.

It pains me that even the Government is showing signs of fear and prejudice with instances where Muslim communities are not allowed to convene in the CBD. I hear Muslim Leaders speak of Christian leaders avoiding to meet them. I think this is the time to change that mindset and to come together in a common action that unites our people.

My dream is that one day I will see a world free of terror attacks in the name of Islam.

PRECEDENTS

In 2012, Colombian American public artist, Yazmany Arboleda with the help of Nabila Alibhai, orchestrated a public art installation that would engage 10,000 people on the streets of Kabul. The event resulted in mobilisation of several local civil society organisations, and collaboration between government departments, local business, local and international press, the UN and several Embassies. Approximately 130 young artists, social mobilisers and youth volunteers were educated on public art as an unfamiliar art form and medium for social change. So unusual and unexpected was the event that more than 20 local and international press outlets covered it, ranging from The New York Times to the Taliban through a long press release on their website. The images of Kabul were images never seen before.Kabul, a war-ravaged city, was transformed in a way that was unforgettable – 10,000 pink balloons flooded the busy streets and were handed by young smiling people to bewildered adults who withstand the experience of terror every day. The connections between people cut across dividing lines – a young Afghan women brightly dressed, handing a balloon to a beggar woman in a burkha or an army officer. The youth groups gained confidence in being able to organize themselves and change their environment. The experience was one of joy, togetherness and wonder and those who received the balloons felt seen. received the balloons felt seen. The project that an indelible impact on the imagination of those who otherwise felt limited in their opportunities. From 2013-2014, the pair refined their social change process through a fellowship within MIT’s Special Program in Urban and Regional Studies (SPURS).

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10,000 Reasons to Believe in the Power of Art in Public Space

In 2013 Yazmany was invited to speak at TEDxUNC where he shared learnings from the first four installments of his art intervention “Monday Morning.”

 

  • “Peace is like a cup of tea in Kenya; we need it”

    Unity of Pastors, Kangemi
  • “The baby is here. Now is to call others to see the baby, grow the baby”

    Unity of Pastors, Kangemi
  • “Once we spread this message, people will feel at home.”

    Unity of Pastors, Kangemi

 

Contact

To contact inCOMMONS: For immediate attention write or call:
Nabila Alibhai
Founder/Director
alibhai.nabila@gmail.com
Tel: +254 789865535
Otherwise, go here

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