La Comadre in Nairobi. Photo/Kelvin Njema, Blaze Ink Media

Colombia’s La Comadre tours Nairobi

La Comadre, a women’s organisation of Afro-Colombian victims of the decades-long Colombian conflict, was hosted to events in Nairobi, Kenya from June 4 – 5, 2024.

Colombia has had internal conflicts between the government, far-right paramilitary groups and crime syndicates, and far-left guerrilla groups, fighting each other for decades. In 2012, negotiations began between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC–EP), the biggest group, and they were successful. These decisions were ratified in a referendum in 2016.

One of the organisations that came from this conflict is La Comadre, a women’s group of Afro-Colombian victims of the conflict currently coordinated by Luz Marina Becerra. The members in fields like social work, psychology, youth outreach, and law were displaced from different regions to big cities like Bogota. One of La Comadre’s unique offerings is a play that shows the conflict in Colombia in an easy-to-digest manner.

La Comadre toured Nairobi with events at the United Nations and Storymoja Publishers.

June 4: Afro Colombian and African Grassroots Women event, United Nations

La Comadre performs at the United Nations in Nairobi
La Comadre performs at the United Nations in Nairobi

The first event was the Afro Colombian and African Grassroots Women event at the United Nations offices in Nairobi. It included speeches from officials of United Nations Women, the United Nations Office in Nairobi as well as the Government of Kenya. Also speaking at the event was Colombian Ambassador Pedro León Cortés Ruiz.

With the speeches done and dusted, La Comadre presented their play to their first international audience. The cast only speaks Spanish so they employed an innovative way of getting the message out with subtitles on huge TVs on the side of the stage. The play showed how rich unscrupulous individuals descended on villages in mineral-rich areas wreaking havoc on the populations by killing men and sexually assaulting women. Those who survived relocated to the poorest areas in cities where they had to deal with racism, unemployment, and other social ills.

This play showed that language is universal with every Kenyan there empathising with the horrors portrayed on the stage as they have seen it in their own nation.

June 5: Sitawa Provocations: A Circle of Call and Response between Afro Colombians and Kenyans, Storymoja

Kingwa Kamencu and Sitawa Namwalie. Photo/Kelvin Njema, Blaze Ink Media
Kingwa Kamencu and Sitawa Namwalie. Photo/Kelvin Njema, Blaze Ink Media

Sitawa Provocations is a unique concept event founded by poet and playwright Sitawa Namwalie where a community discusses a topic of interest. The topic of discussion “A Circle of Call and Response between Afro Colombians and Kenyans” was hosted at the Storymoja offices. In the audience were the La Comadre team, Storymoja staff, as well as writers, thinkers, and others like Garnette Oluoch-Olunya, Dr Zippy Okoth, Onyango Otieno, Beryl Karimi aka La Patrona, Emma Kamau, and others.

Writer Kingwa Kamencu conducted the provocation, and the conversations came quickly, with locals and Colombians sharing their opinions on identity and everything it entailed. Mixed in were a smaller performance of La Comadre’s play and a colourful presentation of books by Storymoja staff.

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