- The event was held to flaunt creativity and nurture talent.
- It is part of the examinable content in the Theater Arts unit.
- The students were urged to use their talent well, monetize it and exhibit it to the world.
- Plans to train more thespians are in the baking oven.
The dire global need for a 21st-century skilled workforce is changing pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning, both in lower education levels and institutions of higher learning.
To keep in step with modernity and the requirements of the next human resource, Kisii University has significantly turned pragmatic, going beyond the theoretical lessons taught within the confines of the classroom.
Some of the beneficiaries of this trajectory are some of the current third years in the School of Arts and Social Sciences (SASS) pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree and those from the School of Education & Human Resource Development (SEDHURED), the founding school of Kisii University.
In their latest experience, they have had a week of competition in art-related performances as part of the practical segment for the Theater Arts unit (Lit 324).
The competitions climaxed on March 24, 2023, with a Gala, which turned out to be an educative and thrilling experience for the performers and the audience.
With other department lecturers and staff’s support, the event was largely organized by Dr. George Nyandoro, a senior lecturer of Literature and Theater Arts, and Eunice Samuel, a lecturer of Literature and Film Studies, both in the School of Arts and Social Sciences.
Dr. Nyandoro doubles as the Director of the Board of Post-graduate at Kisii University, while Ms. Eunice is also a Ph.D. student studying Literature.
It was graced and set off by Prof. John Akama, Kisii University Vice Chancellor, and was attended by the students, lecturers, Kisii county government director of culture, and other aesthetes.
By putting into practice the skills and knowledge gained in the classroom, the students are set on a pathway to self-realization, ignition of passion, and the growth of their talents, preparing them to apply them in achieving their life’s goals.
In groups and in some instances, as individuals, the learners showcased their skills and talent in performance art by preparing and presenting items on folk dance, karaoke, play, solo dramatized verse, choral elocutionary verse, gospel dance, and modern dance.
Handling matters peace, education, morality and accountability in society, among other aspects of contemporary life, the performers set the mood for the occasion, speaking to all ears and hearts on diverse subjects.
“If after every semester, from every unit taught in the universities, the learners could come up, with the help of the lecturers, with something tangible, it would take us a very short time as a country to begin to pick up and grow,” Dr. Nyandoro told Scholar Media Africa in an interview after the event.
The idea of having the students perform as part of the Theater Arts unit was birthed in 2016 and has continued to grow, attracting better talent, gusto, creativity, and energy every year.
Comments about the event
Termed educative and entertaining by the adjudicators and guests present, they encouraged the learners to continue growing their talent and skills, monetizing them and showcasing them to the world through the digital spaces available.
Zephaniah Machoge, a part-time lecturer in SASS, thanked the participants for the spectacular performance and the faculty for its efforts to the gala’s success.
“This is the best way to spend time and energnnoy; innovation and creativity are the way to go,” he reiterated.
The interesting part of it is that while some items, such as folk dance, modern dance, and folk songs, are a modern version of old-age performances in our cultural extractions and the world of performance, the better part of the performances were the fruits of exclusive creativity by the students, such as poetry, plays, and solo/choral verses.
In his remarks, Dr. Evans Nyamwaka, a lecturer in the Department of History, SASS, urged them to go professional, upscaling their talent, recording their creative works, and earning from it.
Some students have already started showcasing their talent and growing it further.
The lion’s share of the directors of the plays, dances and other performances are the fourth years, who were performers last year.
“The graduates of this unit, when they reach fourth year, become the directors of the smaller groups behind them, transiting from acting to directing,” Dr. Nyandoro explained.
Their drive to grow their skills has been burning all along, and they have grown over time.
Dr. Evans Mecha, a linguist and lecturer at Kisii University, reiterated the need to master the nuances of theater arts.
Such finer details include correct use of language and terms in context and originality because “…every action and word of art has a meaning and purpose,” he said.
“If you have any small talent, it only needs ignition,” Dr. George Aberi, the Department Chair of Languages, Linguistics and Literature, told the participants.
He commended them and the institution for having moved a notch higher on their current performances in relation to past events.
Obino Nyambane is a renowned choreographer and the Director of Culture in Kisii county.
“Art is a powerful way of passing information,” he said, urging the students to “do research on the presentations, because it is an academic work.”
The performances are the Continuous Assessment Test (CAT) for the unit, done ahead of the main examination on the unit.
He spurred them that all their areas of performance are a chance to do great in life.
He also encouraged them to work hard on their talent and see to it that they keep growing, even joining national and international drama and acting groups.
“There is a future in what you are doing here,” he told the young learners.
Beyond being teachers, social scientists and other professionals, through further training and exposure, the students have all potential to become great actors, poets, choreographers, artists, and music and drama directors, among other titles in life.
Carrying the talent forward
“Some of them will start developing online content on TikTok, YouTube and elsewhere and soon, they will start earning from their creativity. To me, that is the novelty of the festival,” Dr. Nyandoro told Scholar Media.
The don is planning to hold a workshop for the drama and music directors and other top talents in the next few months.
“We will have a workshop for the directors, exposing them to the beyond-classroom knowledge and skills, helping them tap from the skills of Kenya’s top names in the arts and film industry,” he added.
He believes this will enable the young artists to go a notch higher in their skills in directing, choreography, scripting, and costuming, among other facets of performance art.
Additionally, through a collaboration between Kisii University and Kisii county government, he says they will soon pick up a conversation about setting up a theater hub in Kisii.
“Though it is currently an academic exercise, it needs to be cascaded into the community so that it becomes a community exercise,” he explained.
Dr. Nyandoro, himself an aesthete, believes that such a theater hub would be a place for identifying and growing talent not only from within the university but also from creative members of the public.
The speakers reiterated that art pays instantly.
“We are here to nurture talent,” said Ms. Eunice.
She further invited them to use their talent and skills wisely because they are avenues for acquiring resources.
“This year’s event was one of the best occasions compared to other years since we began theatre performances. As a department of Literature, we hope to go a notch higher to record the event proceedings and convert some of the plays into movies and films,” she told Scholar Media.
The don urges all institutions to adopt this approach and help the Department of Literature grow from the earlier traditions of teaching theory and start infusing practicum into their units.
“Such transitions would help students to identify and nurture their talents and skills,” she believes.
The spectacular gala was not without impediments.
She says that the students did not have appropriate costumes due to a lack of sufficient finances.
“We urge our fellow thespians to support our students in such events,” she said.
Equally, while appreciating those who showed up, she identified the lecturers’ turn-up for the event as low.
“As the organisers, we expected more to attend so that they could encourage our students,” she added.
With the performances improving yearly, most challenges are also expected to be solved for a better experience.
Sponsors, adjudicators and prizes
Ms. Eunice has been among the adjudicators of theater arts performances since 2019. Some of her other colleagues who’ve also been adjudicating are Sospeter Bichang’a and Denis Ombui, lecturers from the Department of Literature.
In their own capacity, the adjudicators and several lecturers also appreciated the top performers and best teams with cash prizes, encouraging them to continue putting in the effort.
“I appreciate the following for sponsoring the event: Prof. John Akama, the Vice Chancellor for supporting the event, fellow lecturers who supported us with money for trophies, Dr. George Areba and Dr. Naftali Ongaga for offering free professional adjudication in the second round of the festival, and all those who have appreciated the students with cash prizes,” Ms. Eunice appreciated.
Dr. Areba, Dr. Nyamwaka, Dr. Ongaga, Dr. Aberi, Dr. Oino and Mr. Bichang’a, gave free cash prizes to thespians who excelled.
Representing the Vice Chancellor during the closing ceremony, Dr. George Areba, Dean School of Education & Human Resource Development, appreciated the creativity and energy in the students, urging them to seek pathways of earning from their talent now and in the future.
According to the VC, in efforts to align with the shift in the education system, Kisii University has set out to train minds for the modern-day job market with the required competencies.
“It is significant not to see this event as an end in itself but a beginning to greatness,” said Prof. Akama, encouraging them to keep feeding their talent and passion.
He urged them to use digital spaces such as YouTube, TikTok, and others for professional content creation.
The winners were: Quackers (Folk dance), Superstars (Karaoke), Quackers (Play) Superstars (Choral elocutionary verse), Quackers (Solo dramatized verse), Rong’ Rende (Dramatized dance), Pioneers (Choral dramatized verse), Superstars (Gospel dance) and Elites (Modern dance).
Beyond the trophies for the top positions, every student who performed is set to be awarded with a certificate of participation.
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Beyond identifying and growing talent, such events are among the best strategies to build confidence and cement teamwork among students — soft skills which are essential in the corporate world.