An inspirational dance troupe in Nairobi is raising awareness of disability through artistic expression. Through her striking images, Kenyan photographer Mia Collis captures the spirit and strength of these remarkable survivors.
People with disability need not be disabled. The Paralympics has shown us this. We’ve watched this inspirational gathering in awe, marvelling at individuals who have overcome huge challenges to become lightning-quick sprinters, powerful swimmers, basketball legends and more.
The Paralympics was a humbling spectacle. But you don’t have to look all the way to London for examples of people breaking down such barriers.
Nairobi-based Pamoja Dance is a mixed group of dancers with and without disability, working together to share their creative expression in an open and inclusive environment. Its aim is to raise awareness of disabled issues and provide a forum for their discussion. It hopes to challenge perceptions of the contribution that people with disabilities can make in performing arts – and the wider society.
Sign of strength
The contradictions that embody the lives of the dancers is fascinating. Hidden from daily life and revealed on stage. Shunned by society and loved by the audience. Most individuals in the group were born and grew up into a life of serious adversity, and yet many, as a testimony to their strength of character, are now the breadwinners of their families.
Photographer Mia Collis has worked for the BBC, CNN, National Geographic and a range of other outlets. For more of her work, see www.miacollis.com
(The following are a sample of the stunning images in this portfolio. To view the complete feature, please see the emag of this issue.)
I wish all people with disability would have the chance to feel those feelings I have on stage. It would change the world. Not only would they realise that they can do anything they want to, it would also make society realise our potential and how beautiful we really are.
Betty Mwendi Ngunia
I’m sure my never-give-up and have-a-go attitude will continue to bring many new adventures in my life. It’s a journey and we never know what’s around the corner.
Pamoja makes me feel like a star, a brighter star. I’m in a sky with other stars that are shining bright.
In dance, the whole piece is out in the open. I am exposed. I can express myself in a way that I find hard to do in conversations. When I dance, I can be happy, sad, angry or romantic. I can be anyone I want to be, or I can be me.