Awesome Kenyans: The Artist

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I had the honor and privilege to go to school with amazingly talented people. We all experience that blessing as amongst us all are very gifted people, who often just need encouragement to nurture and grow their talent.

Now amongst the gifted in Loreto Convent Msongari was my classmate, Yvonne, who was outstanding in several respects. First, she was an excellent athlete. Now, if I had a gift I could use on sports day it was the gift of cheering. I must admit I was never much of a sportswoman although I did try my very best… So on the sidelines I would cheer our athletes on during our athletics and other sports events including hockey, netball, tennis, rounders and swimming – and Yvonne would always be at the top of her field.

But that was just one gift she had, there was another… One day during visit to her house for her birthday party we went into her bedroom and I was stunned by the art on her wall. She had large characters drawn on her bedroom walls and they were truly amazing depictions, if I recall correctly, of cartoon and comic book characters. I was stunned by the raw talent displayed in the wall. At that time we must have been 10 or 11 years old, and I remember being most impressed by her parents who had clearly allowed her to grow her gift.

A few years later when we were working on our annual school musical Kismet with the great Kenyan thespian James Falkland, I was able to make greater use of myself by acting in the play. I was far better at theatre, verse speaking, creative writing and poetry than at sport. Meanwhile, Yvonne and the team of outstanding artists were busy  working on the murals for the play. On our grand stage (we did think it was terribly grand) they painted images that took everyone back to a historical time in Baghdad where a shrewd poet would outwit the evil Wazir  (Chief of Police), and would change his own fate completely.

A musical like Kismet would give so many amongst us the opportunity to grow our gifts. Believe it or not, I had terrible stage fright as a child and my continued participation in plays and presentations would grow my confidence over the years, teaching me how to project, how to stand tall and straight and how to clearly communicate my message.

For the artists, they had a chance to work on a large stage drawing amazing murals and exploring interesting ways of executing various scenes. In Kismet they created a secret chamber under the stage for one particular scene! And then we had our musicians – those who played instruments and our gifted singers. When the music played and our soloists performed there was always pin drop silence followed at the end of their performance by incredible raucous applause. Sadly today many of those great singers sing no more, they brushed aside the talent and moved on to sensible careers in banking, law and medicine. Very practical yes, but somehow I think the world has lost some of its light with their beautiful voices now silenced.

As such, over the years, I have followed those amongst us who kept the gifts alive with keen interest and great joy. And so, when it was announced that a Kenyan who once painted on her bedroom walls in Nairobi won The Visual Effects Society award for Outstanding Matte Paintings in a Feature Motion Picture for work on the blockbuster Avatar, I felt a great sense of pride and joy!

Avatar – Pandora
Yvonne Muinde – Lead Matte Painter
Brenton Cottman – Lead Matte Painter
Peter Baustaedter – Senior Matt Painter
Jean-Luc Azzis – Senior Compositor

Yvonne Muinde has proved to us all that we can achieve global recognition and reward in the arts. That whilst our curriculum has tried to brush aside art, music, sport and literature these remain vital towards growing an generation of talented and accomplished Africans.

So far Yvonne has worked on a number of movies including Star Wars Revenge of the Sith, Happy Feet, Fantastic Four and Prince Caspian (The Chronicles of Narnia), and she has just completed work on The Hobbit, which promises to be a huge global success.

As a child I loved CS Lewis’s remarkable tales captured in his series The Chronicles of Narnia. All those years ago I could never have imagined that my friend and classmate would be part of the team bringing those stories to life in such a grand manner!

A man called Walt Disney once said, “It is kind of fun to do the impossible!” He used his talents and left behind a great legacy of enchantment for the world. And today in Kenya, Yvonne is an icon for us all, both young and old. An example that if we do what we do best… and do it well… we can surely achieve anything! Even the unimaginable!

Afro-optimist * Wife * Mother * Child of God TV Host * Writer * Producer * Entrepreneur * Philanthropist

10 Comments on "Awesome Kenyans: The Artist"

  1. kinyua says:

    wow amazing.kenya’s got talent and it seems to me you have sat with the high and mighty in every field.i still want to be you when i grow up.cheers!

  2. You such a talent, and inspiration to me, as a beauty in our screens and a very warm mum. Love u Julie.

  3. Beloved Naisula says:

    Well put Julie! Yes, EACH ONE OF US CAN accomplish great things…congratulations to the great artist!

  4. Samantha says:

    Very inspiring, especially because I want to work in the same field as she does and I’m working towards that. This was just what I needed to read.

  5. I can do it, only that i can do it better.If you believe, then anything is possible.

  6. Sandy Ofsenek Helland says:

    Did your grandfather visit Sacramento Calif about 45 years ago? If so I may still have a beautiful letter he wrote to me when he returned home. I was in my 20s and really enjoyed talking with Lawrence Kabui and showing him the region and entertaining him with my girlfriend and roommate at that time. He was not treated well by many people at KCRA TV where he was visiting and he went home every day to a terrible hotel room in downtown Sacramento. When my friend and I found out that he was not well treated by Managers in Sacramento, we stepped in and started making him feel welcome. He teased us and told us to come to Africa to meet his family. I was very poor in those days and never made it over to visit and always have regretted that I did not visit him.

    You wrote about him and it touched my heart. I am so glad that you were influenced by his good work and good values. Please write to me if you can.

    Thank you and you must have made your grandfather proud!

    warm regards,
    Sandy Helland

    • Thank you for your message Sandy. I am very touched. My grandfather was a great positive influence in my life and an incredible role model for me as well as for all his other grandchildren. My mother and her siblings would be delighted to hear from you too. I sent an email but it bounced back. I do hope we get to connect and read his letter. May The Lord bless you abundantly for your grace in my grandfathers life. Warm regards & blessings, Julie

  7. Mwangi says:

    Thanks Julie,you are our role model and an inspiration to all of us.I am proud of you! May God always be on your side.

  8. Lucas Rading says:

    Hold on to what you have you never know where it may get you. Everyone is a leader in his or her own gifting.

  9. Anil K Shah says:

    Hi, Julie, I have seen you from the time you first got chance to be a news anchor & then you progressed to host your own shows. I could sense that you have a high intellect & you sincerely want to see great changes in our country. And you are doing this by taking up issues which are dividing our country or how the homeless children are living.
    I got to your website after I listened & watched your interview with Satguru. You handled the interview very calmly & maturely & from what I could see, you probably are as enlightened as the guru.
    You are smart & intelligent. I sincerely wish that you succeed any path you take in your career. All the best.

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