I am seated at the third row in an expectant audience at The GoDown Arts Center listening to the emcee introduce Lake Victoria. In the middle of his speech he asks, “How many of you have seen the lake recently?” My response- in my head- is prompt. “No. The last time I was in Kisumu, I did not see a lake. All I saw was acres of hyacinth. It looked like a well-manicured golf lawn”. This is one of the many stories of a dead Lk.Victoria that I and many others acquainted to the lake, will tell you.
By the time I am done with my answer-in my head- he had already introduced the performance of the day.
It is a contemporary dance. The type of dance I have never really understood. This however was different. The mood was intense. The dancers relayed a story of a burial ritual. Someone had died. After the ritual, they took a small pot of water and shared it among themselves and it was enough for all. As the dance continues, they take another bigger pot of water and start to waste is, splashing it all over the stage.
They too had a story to tell about the lake. It died (dried up). They were forced to use the little water left and it was enough to share. When the water levels rose back to normal; they started misusing the lake again, leading up to another burial ceremony because the lake had died again.
Isn’t this what we are experiencing with Lk. Victoria? Isn’t our ignorance and/or lack of action leading us up to a burial ceremony? The lake is dying!
I went on to do my own research about the state of Lake Victoria and came across some quick facts like Lake Victoria is the second largest fresh water lake in in the world…approximately 80% of its water comes from rain…wait! Rain? With our ever shrinking forest cover and poor tree planting culture? Panic mode is almost activating.
Reading on, I learn that the lake has actually dried up a few times before, the last time being 17,300 years ago. So here I am reading more about how the water levels are reducing, hyacinth is encroaching, fish species are on the decline and guess what, we are now harvesting sand on the shores of Lk. Victoria! (This is the point where I take a deep breath to slow down my thought process. My dear reader may not be amused by the words going through my head)
I am angry enough! Angry at me for not planting a single tree in my life. Angry for not acting-in my own little way, to preserve and restore the environment, yet, I am quick to call Nairobi Water and complain my lungs out when my water tank is empty. It should begin with me. Revolutions begin with each one of us taking individual responsibility and I resolve to mine for the environment.
Naam Festival is an organization using art and innovation to fight for Lake Victoria. They have been running an advocacy campaign, #JusticeForLakeVictoria , through an online photo exhibition on Instagram through their handle @itsnaamfestival with amazing pictures of the lake. The exhibition ends on 12th April 2017 (Lk. Victoria Day) so please, be sure to follow and check out the pictures in support of their campaign.
We cannot all host festivals to champion for causes like the environment. That would be crazy. We however can do even the little unrecognized actions like using the bin and the difference made will be measurable with time. If we all played our part, there will be no more stories of dead lakes.
PS: The dance performance ‘Stories of A Dead Lake’ was by three talented dancers from Yawa Dance Company.