Arts Recent Events Technology

Lest we Forget: We started from the bottom…

From a distance, it looked too cold to harbor any living thing. In fact it was tempting to tip toe inside for a ghost hunting episode. The black grilled door seemed to keep the ‘ghosts’ inside and the humans outside stood in place for security. Accompanying it were a pair of annoying wooden doors that knew not how to shut in the night or day, instead they made sure to slam close then open at the whisper of the faintest wind as if to confirm the existence of ghosts in this gothic looking structure. Then one daring soul caring a black back-pack would be seen striding across the quiet playground heading straight for the grilled door. Without peeping in, the door would be unlocked and the soul would immediately get in and close the grill behind as if securing the fort just in case the ‘ghosts’ desired to venture out. A few minutes later came another soul, and then a few others followed up in the same manner. None of them seemed to note that there was a wooden door after the grilled door that never closed. In fact, it didn’t bother any of them. They came to the Pot for a purpose, one that seemed only viable to them.

That was the SwahiliPot hub in the younger days of the month of April just after the inspection visit by the ICT Authority’s Cabinet Secretary, Honorable Joe Mucheru on the 21st March 2016.

The lower floor hardly harbored any guests unless by an event that dared to overflow. Every young soul that came to the SwahiliPot hub desired to go up the unpolished wooden staircase that led to the upper floor for a perfect view of the Indian Ocean. In the months of March and April, just a few young souls could be seen to come to the Pot to use the high speed Internet when there was no event or meeting of some kind.

After a few meetings to plan the first event after the inspection visit, SpaceApps Challenge, an international hackathon where young people gather together for 72 hours to bring up their innovations around Space related issues was set for the 23rd and 24th of April 2016. With no furniture of our own, every bit of equipment was borrowed from the nearby partners – National Museum of Kenya and Seacom. This saw growing respect for the over 100-year old structure. The first day of the event saw plus 50 young people spend a whole day of computer programming in action. The second day however, only half the number showed up. That did not deter the efforts to keep going to the end. The event saw five different solutions to Space-related problems brought to life ready for the worldwide competition!

Hackathons held at the SwahiliPot in April and May 2016

A month down the line, on 21st and 22nd of May saw yet another major event. The Design to Transform (D2T) training and hackathon took place. Branded “Girls in Mombasa Embrace ICT”, Pwani Teknowgalz CBO hosted guests from Nairobi during this training. As was the norm, every little bit of furniture and equipment was either borrowed or dearly paid for from the meager budget. This specific event saw 33 participants on both days learn how to develop websites for community based organizations that had shown interest. Who would have thought that this would actually come to pass?

Members at play
Work and Play is part of SwahiliPot’s culture.

Then word spread regarding the availability of free Internet, plastic chairs were borrowed from the Swahili Culture – fifteen of them to be precise accompanied by five small wooden Lamu-design tables. Each table bore sufficient space enough to hold four laptops back to back. If soul came late he or she had to bear their laptop on their laps or place it on a second chair if there was any remaining. Peer to peer training took root with the cheeky enticement of one of the members of D2T team being dared to stay behind and help inspire the growth of the hub.

All meetups were shared in the best way known how- WhatsApp and Facebook: social media to the rescue! Word of mouth did not fail the members either, in campuses and streets, by the shores of Indian Ocean and while sharing kahawa-tungu; it was clear, SwahiliPot became the home of every young living being. The marriage had borne fruits and silenced the naysayers; the Techies solemnized the marriage to the Artists with a membership spilling over 60 members committed to the course!

learning area
Improved Learning Areas

It was after the D2T event that more and more young ladies and men bought to the utilization of the SwahiliPot hub. Training sessions on Web development took place on the rising of the sun and ended on the setting of the same. The lack of furniture became our luck as interested parties made a stopover from time to time: Noble members in the society in the likes of Suleiman Shabaal, Najib Balala, Mombasa’s Senator –Omar Hassan, Hassan Wario, a good number of National Museum of Kenya’s dignitaries and even members of Corporate Affairs department at the Kenya Ports Authority. The list has grown by day! Each one of them inspiring members of the SwahiliPot to keep focused on the innovations and change Mombasa’s narrative- each one desiring to partner with SwahiliPot and provide a stage for the youth to showcase their novelty.

Today our story is different; the amphitheater prides itself of daily visits by groups of artists auditioning during different times of the day. Calls and e-mails stream in from various groups even from the capital city seeking to book a space for rehearsals and events. Technology groups seek to partner and extend their events to Mombasa through SwahiliPot. This is a new dawn for the youth, indeed for Mombasa. Lady-luck smiled upon us and Seacom shared their birthday presents with us- SwahiliPot got a major facelift that saw the hub partially renovated to make the space comfortable with polished wood, repaired floor in the upper room,

More space at the Amphitheater

functioning washrooms and a good number of the coolest furniture ever!

The membership is on the rise with at least 93 signed up members, a handful of startups being incubated and a good number of projects in progress. It is not business as usual at the SwahiliPot, it is either you are at the ‘Pot’ or you risk being left behind. Here is the enlightening; Innovative youth breathe life into any structure- they just need to know that it exists and the rest is history.

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Recent Events

Seacom Foundation Day: Giving beyond the usual basket

Swahilipot Hub came about first as an idea by the youth-loving patron and mentor, Mr. Mahmoud Noor early this year. From the inspiration of the tranquil splendor of the Swahili Culture’s compound neighboring the famous Fort Jesus; the rear section of the compound overlooks the ocean. Standing there is a family house that would witness to a hundred years and counting, that is where Swahilipot hub is located. With a well-manicured slope leading to the blue waters of the Indian Ocean while at the same time overlooking the distinguished English Point Marina amongst other elegant hotels aligned along the sandy beaches of this awesome city of Mombasa.

Guests attending the Seacom Foundation Day
Guests from all walks of life came to witness the 7th anniversary of Seacom Foundation Day.

Partnering to breathe life to the idea; four main organizations in Kenya: Seacom, CISCO, National Museum of Kenya and The ICT Authority have ensured that the Swahilipot hub will not go unnoticed. Each of the member partners giving a portion of what they do best in their industry to ensure that the youth in Mombasa innovate creatively around Arts and Technology to come up with the very much needed sustainable solutions for the community.

Ahead of their 7th anniversary, Seacom choose to share their affection for technology with Swahilipot hub by ensuring that the upper floor of the hub stood awesomely gorgeous with renovations and furnishings that inspire creativity amongst the youth. The formerly potholed concrete floor now dares you with a alluring forest green look, shine and smooth in one package- not to mention placement of Rich mahogany stained skirting kissing the floor daring you to work from the floor. The wooden section of the floor and the two sets of staircases now have a chic sensation from the hard coat varnish yet retaining the 100 years artistic glory! Washrooms partitioned to cater for the private needs of the youth using the Swahilipot hub to learn and build upon the myriads of ideas now have water to keep them clean and usable.

Various sitting arrangements
Left: Relaxed sitting with bean-bags. Right: Comfortable chairs and tables for training setups.

Have you noticed the extensive variety of lavish seats hugging the white mica-top tables in the two training rooms? The dazzling colored seats flower-up the magnificence of the rooms teasing for different formations depending on the needs of any event held in these rooms.

Seacom realized that there are times that the young lads and lassies gathering at the Swahilipot hub to make use of the space during different hours of the day need to experience different environments within the same space. For that reason, tasty colored bean-bags and newspaper-bin seats woo the occupants of the space to delight in the coziness of the wooden floor extending to the magnificent wooden staircase. Spoilt for creativity is the slogan.

To crown it all, the Seacom foundation day event saw in attendance the Area Chief, Assistant county commissioner Mombasa Island ward, Assistant County Commissioner 1 and 2 not to mention a whole community of guests to grace the day. Before the unveiling of the renovations came several speeches topped by artistic works in the form of Spoken-word, rap, story-telling, stand-up commedy and dance. Just before the sumptuous lunch could be served the guests had a chance to visit the renovated works and even head to the terrace for an unhindered view of the ocean. Now it is no secret, Seacom gave Swahilipot an over-the-top facelift.

Artists at work
Artists entertained the guests with a variety of presentations.

Thank you Seacom!

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