Wycliffe Opondo, Red Bull Choma, mixed media on canvas, 55" x 47"
Kenya just swept the New York Marathon, winning both the men's and women's titles. Wilson Kipsang & Mary Keitany continued Kenya's dominance and athletic prowess in long distance running. Both runners are from the Rift Valley - a region where running has given hope to many who are not only just seeking a ticket out of poverty (Prize Money) but also those who get motivation and hope from simply running. Running for the sake of running requires men and women to compete with themselves. They run in the morning before dawn or late in the evening, chasing their human shadow and dreams, in the dusk of the African sun.
Henry Wanyoike is a Kenyan para-olympic champion who embodies the Kenyan running spirit brilliantly. He lost his eyesight at the age of 20, after suffering a stroke, but he refused to stop running. Henry was born in a small slum in the town of Kikuyu (peri-urban area of Nairobi) and from a young age he realized he was a gifted runner. He was smaller than most of his classmates, but to the surprise of many, he won the 5000m at the national level in high school. His motivation to run as a boy was to help his family leave the destitution he saw in the slum. He wanted a better life for his mother. After he lost his sight, Henry was severely devastated because he thought he would never run again.
The fact that Wanyoike was now visually-impaired presented him with a stumbling block that seemed insurmountable. Wanyoike says he woke up one morning and saw 'light'. He muttered to himself: " I'm blind but I still have vision." Wanyoike was lucky to be surrounded by dreamers - his family and friends - when disaster struck. While he lacked a clear path, his friends and family motivated him to keep doing what he loves best, running.
Everyone in Kikuyu thought Henry was losing it when he attempted to run without eyesight. It was his " blind faith" that created the champion that we know today. His blind faith motivates millions of children all across Africa who face multiple odds like he did: poverty, disability, & lack of inspiration. Henry enables people to not just dream - but dream big. Henry, like all artists, dreams before he can create.
Running in Kenya is an extension of our artistic side. Our life is art in itself & we don't separate the two. We dream it artfully then we execute and live the dream artfully. It is in this very spirit that AfroArt is organizing a run here in the Berkeley-Oakland hills on our beautiful Strawberry Canyon Fire Trail. Our goal is to spread inspiration and joy through running and art.
Steel Pulse, "Rollerskates"