Chwuech Manimba: Indigenous Creative Education Among Women of the Luo Community of Western Kenya
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As a result of the recession currently being experienced in the world, many people have lost their positions at work. Consequently, these people have wished to re-enter the job market. They have done this by going into colleges and other institutions of higher learning to be trained in new skills, or to get help adapting the ones they have, to the needs of the current job market. This addition to student diversity, and the reality of increased movement of people across geographical borders, is manifested in classrooms with learners from different backgrounds. The import of understanding and enriching practice with insight from non-Western perspectives of teaching and learning has never been more necessary. This dissertation attempts to contribute to this effort. The aim of this dissertation is to present the procedure and proceedings of an instructional research into the teaching and learning among Luo women of Western Kenya. The purposes of the research are threefold. First, it seeks to document a system of indigenous adult education that has proved sustainable among Luo women from generation to generation. Second, it attempts to examine, document, and contextualize the local terminologies of an indigenous African form of adult education, within the meta-language of scholarly adult educational studies and practices. Third, it reports the entire process through which the research unfolded, in a systematic form that renders it reproducible in a similar setting. The principal objective of the study is to document the process through which women empower themselves through adult education, by using expressive forms of creativity as metaphors for resistance, regeneration, and survival. To satisfy this range of aims, purposes, and objectives, I carried out research among the Bang jomariek women, a group already known locally as practitioners of chwuech. Chwuech is a wide-ranging Luo indigenous term that the artists apply in reference to activities including the creative process, the aesthetic reflections, social intervention, and the art educational structure of their expressive cultures. This group practices a range of art forms including a systematic form of indigenous adult art education. My familiarity with the art forms is one of the principle considerations for choosing this group. I knew the forms as a child who grew up in the same geographical region with these women. But, I also decided to study with them because of their use of sustainable working materials, which are all sourced locally in their environments. Their use of sustainable mediums of expression, which multiplies the efficiency of their sustainable art educational practices, makes them perfect as a model group for this study into sustainable feminist art education among adults in Africa. I have carefully studied the theories of adult education in the process of selecting suitable tools for this research. A good portion of the reflective time given to this project elaborated on the varieties of possibilities, before I adopted two main theoretical angles, namely (post)feminist and post colonial perspectives in adult education. The study methods fostered by these theories allows for the creation of a polyvocal context that enables the participants to contribute to the research process in a comfortable and fruitful manner. Additionally, following from the ethnographic nature of this study and the pragmatic orientations of the theories that form its base, I chose participant observation, which I particularly adapted into the concept of kit dak in the Luo family architecture, as the main instrument for collecting data. I did this because I wished to fit the study into the local epistemologies and, by so doing, enhance its success among members of the Bang? jomariek women group. Other study instruments are semi-structured open-ended interviews, journaling, and photo voice. This dissertation contains the journeys from the stages of preparing for the research, to the points of post-research reflections and analysis. I divided the dissertation into seven chapters starting from the preparations for the study to reflections about it at the end of the study so as to present a comprehensive picture of the multidimensional facets of the research process. In the West Reru community, chwuech functions to improve multiple aspects of the community. This feminist art education processes is anti-colonial in the way it spurs critical thinking among participants who gain the confidence of exploring avenues, at their disposal, to improve their lives and that of their community. By engaging in chwuech, participants not only learn an income-generating skill, but are able to be actively involved in their community‘s economic, medical, political, spiritual, and social dimension as indigenous practitioners. Thus, chwuech allowed the participants one means by which they tackled the emerging problems of poverty, disease, political instability, and social strife that commonly confronted them in their community and to varying degrees of success. The participants employed various strategies to successfully engage in chwuech. Some of these strategies included teaching and learning through song, sayings, modeling, scaffolding, and experiencing. Spirituality served as an important source of direction in the chwuech activities and the women‘s lives. The spirit of community created by the collective nature of the chwuech activities enabled the learners to willingly help each other with issues that crop up as impediments in life. This happy, accepting, dynamic, and effervescent environment also fostered free exchange of information unhindered by any forms of limitations on content.