Student Gallery Takes Community to Kenya, Highlights Interterm Education
Students of a certain age can't help it: The lens through which they see Kenya is tinted with the colors of Walt Disney's palette. The east African nation that inspired “The Lion King” has gained notoriety and attracted tourists with its national parks and safaris.
Before a December 2017 interterm class, that’s the way Aubry Andreas saw it, too. She was excited to experience and photograph the country’s famous highlands and exotic wildlife.
“We did take some safaris,” she says, remembering the 17 days her class spent there. “But I think by the end of the trip, we realized that’s not what defines Kenya, even though that’s kind of what’s marketed.”
Back on the University of Denver campus, Andreas, a senior majoring in international studies and French, has a new focus: exposing the local community to the Kenya she saw, rich with color and culture, yet scarred by struggling communities.
The photos she snapped will hang in a new gallery, meant to develop a deeper understanding of the country she got to know well in Conservation, Communities and Culture, a course taught by associate teaching professor Bob Uttaro of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies. Andreas, senior Taff Anderson and sophomore Erika Sobelman will show their work on May 12 in the Sie Complex’s Maglione Room, promoting an international education and Kenyan culture, while also raising money for Kenyan students who can’t afford to attend college.
“I felt after the trip it was my duty to do that for these people,” says Anderson, who majors in film studies and media production. “I wanted to get their stories out there. I feel like a lot of people go to Kenya for the tourism, but they don’t really interact with the locals and see how a Kenyan lives from day-to-day.”
Anderson and Andreas did see everyday life. Their photos capture the work of fishermen on Diani Beach, who, despite catching and consuming sea turtles, awake early every morning to ensure the creatures safely lay their eggs and return to the water. Snapshots show the struggles of the Watha community, a tribe shunned and no longer recognized by other Kenyans.
At their gallery, made possible by funding from Undergraduate Student Government and the Center for Sustainability, as many as 60 photos will tell those individual stories. Andreas hopes they will paint an equally vibrant picture of the value of an interterm experience.
Until embarking on the interterm experience, Andreas says, “I wasn’t really aware of the field studies or research that I had access to here. I got that passion to actually go into the field and study these things. Because once I came back … I had so many more examples to draw upon and I understand the concepts so much better because I’ve seen it play out. I think connecting that academic scholarship to the real world is important.”
Now, Andreas and Anderson want to connect academic scholarship to the kind, authentic people they met abroad. Prints and postcards for sale at the gallery will raise money to help establish a college fund for members of the Watha tribe. Ideally, Andreas hopes to raise $700 — and raise some awareness within her own community.
“For me, a successful night is someone walking away saying ‘I learned something tonight,’” she says. “It’s not just about the landscapes or the wildlife. It’s about the people too.”