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 painted on her bedroom walls in Nairobi won an Academy award for her work on the Hollywood blockbuster Avatar, I felt a great sense of pride and joy!
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!