Culture can make or break the development of societies. In its variety of forms, art has the power to preserve elements of cultures that are disappearing under the effects of globalization. Additionally, it can be used to provide an economic boost to impoverished communities. Keep reading to learn more about the top four organizations fighting poverty through art.
4 Organizations Fighting Poverty Through Art
- The Friends of Sironka Dance Troupe – The Friends of Sironka Dance Troupe is a team of Kenyan Maasai tribesmen and women who perform across the United States and spread awareness about Maasai culture. With an estimated 300,000 Maasai living in Kenya — accounting for 10 percent of the country’s population — the troupe raises awareness about the Maasai language and culture. The group was founded by Batik artist and cultural consultant Nicholas Sironka. Profits from their events fund programs such as education for Maasai girls and installing wells and latrines. With a revolving team of dancers, Sironka provides opportunities for the poorest and most driven of the Maasai people to participate and provide for their families and communities. Although income varies, past performers expected to receive roughly $2,000 for their work, exceeding a lifetime’s income in their home villages.
- Roots Studio – Roots Studio is a business that pairs with tribal communities to digitize and license their art. Art sold through their program includes designs from Nagaland and calligraphy from Syria. Each piece is named after the artist and raises awareness about their unique society. Roots Studio not only assists rural communities in participating at globally competitive pricing, but they also ensure 75 percent of the profit goes to the artist and 25 percent goes to a fund for their village for licenses. Roots Studio also runs related workshops with their partner tribes bimonthly.
- Inema Arts Center – Inema Art Center is an art initiative in Rwanda founded by Nkuranga Emmanuel and Innocent Nkurunziza in 2012. One of the center’s projects, launched by Nkuranga, is Art with a Mission. The project provides educational opportunities for orphaned children from 10-17, so they can learn to support themselves through artistic trades. Innocent began the Nziza Workshop in 2010 which employs Rwandan craftswomen. Additionally, Inema Arts Center supports ten resident artists in exploring contemporary African art forms.
- Africulturban – Africulturban is a youth-led, nonprofit organization founded in Dakar, Senegal by rapper Matador. The organization aims to develop the artistic culture of marginalized communities and skillsets of urban youth. Africulturban offers a variety of free training workshops for all ages. On a larger project scale, Africulturban organizes Hip Hop Akademy, founded in 2011. Through this program, young professionals take free courses across subjects such as graphic design, music and video production and editing, marketing, communication and more. Africulturban also hosts a variety of cultural events including Festa2H, most recently held in June. Festa2H is an annual rap festival that began with limited funding and events. However, it has grown into one of the largest international hip-hop festivals in Africa. From big names to budding performers, the festival provides an opportunity for artists to use hip-hop as a form of self-expression, livelihood and protest.
These four organizations fighting poverty through art demonstrate the cultural preservation and economic and urban development art initiatives can create in impoverished communities. Not everyone can start a group like these four organizations fighting poverty through art. However, offering support to art initiatives that serve marginalized and impoverished communities can help make use of art as a tool for social change. Engaging with art in a variety of ways can promote cultural exchange and provides a voice for those who are all too often underrepresented.
– Jordan Keller