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Graduate Uses Street Art to Sensitize the Youths

Majority of people realize their talent in their adulthood, but this is not the case for Hanington Okello, a 26-year-old graduate from Kenyatta University who majored in Bachelor of Education and later turned visual art for a living.

Okello, born and raised in a humble background in Kisumu started doing artwork at a tender age. He would draw images of various things and through this, he realized that he possessed a talent that many were in awe of.

During his studies, he would make time to perfect this art, which gave him an opportunity to participate in different art competitions and emerge the winner in most of them.

Despite studying Education at the University, he chose a different path in line with his talent. Currently, he is a visual artist specializing in animation, graphic design, illustration, graffiti and caricature.

Okello, together with three other artists came up with a group known as Ghetto Reality Art (GRA) which has enabled them to get contracts from Government institutions and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to draw murals sensitizing the community about certain issues.

He has worked with NGOs such as Talanta Africa, Plan International and the Ministry of Arts and Culture Heritage to showcase his talent through street arts in Manyatta and Obunga slums as well as along the Kondele-Kakamega road.

In as much as the caricatures along the streets are humorous in nature, they pass across a message to the public with their catchy slogans example ‘VOTE YAKO, VOICE YAKO’ to sensitize the public about the upcoming general elections, ‘CHOREA DRUGS’ to warn the youths about the dangers of drug abuse among many others.

Apart from the fulfillment he gets when doing visual arts, Okello says that this is a source of living for him and his team. Through visual arts, he has managed to get a kick-start in life hence overcoming the state of joblessness among the youths.

“Visual arts have been a reliable source of income for me over the past six years and I’m happy that through my artwork, the public gets to learn something crucial from it,” Okello said.

He added that apart from sensitizing the community, the visual arts are also used for aesthetic purposes to decorate public spaces such as clubs, social spaces and also schools.

During the 2019 Safaricom Blaze Awards, his visual artwork was voted the best in the art category and he was awarded for this.

Moreover, Okello noted that he undergoes some challenges while out on the streets such as insecurity whereby his tools are at times stolen, using aerosol paints which are a health hazard when inhaled thus prompting him to use gas masks and expensive quality working materials.

Okello urges the youths to believe in themselves, perfect their talent and be determined in whatever they are good at. Further, he suggests that the government should allocate public spaces to the artists to convey positive messages in relation to promoting peace during the coming General Elections.

By Becky Galyns and Mary Odago

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