Twenty-three-year-old Jerusa Nyakundi is on a mission to inspire creativity and encourage youth to utilize media in health ways. The Kenyan-American photographer is leading a course on photography for local youth in collaboration with the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board.
The Visual Voice Project was conceived by the Board’s activities coordinator Sarah Williams. Nyakundi was acquainted by Williams after the two met at an Ilhan Omar event where she was the assigned Mshale photographer. Together the two were able to draft a plan for the project to secure funding from the board and launched the Visual Voice Project earlier this month.
Nyakundi began her interest in photography after being gifted a camera from a sibling. “I’m a little bit of a creative person,” said Nyakundi who’s talents expand into music and painted art. She moved to the United States at the age of four a week after the September 11, 2001 attacks. Nyakundi describes experiencing culture shock in various aspects of her life, from being in different cultural environment, weather patterns, and personal expression. “I knew I was in a different place but didn’t know why I was here,” Nyakundi said.
Nyakundi now makes sense of her world through her lens. The photographer has worked with multiple student groups in undergrad before photographing for local artists, companies, and an event hosted by representative Ilhan Omar.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that the average American teenager spends about seven hours a day consuming media. While some educators are focused on limiting media consumption, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board wants to meet youth halfway in creating channels for healthy media usage for creativity and personal development.
Generation Z, the demographic cohort after millennials has grown up in the digital age. The goal of the Visual Voice Project is to educate students on healthy media use and encourage their creativity. The six-week project began with multiple exposure trips in the Twin Cities for students to explore different art mediums to gauge their interests. The students then will partake in a series of workshops exploring photography. They will learn how to use a professional camera, different shooting styles, as well as editing techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop. At the end of the program there will be an exhibition for the students to showcase their work. The Visual Voice Project has currently fifteen students involved.
“After this project is done, I want to move this program to different areas,” Nyakundi said. She wants to expand the project to reach a wider range of youth around Minnesota. Nyakundi wants to inspire the younger generation “to use creativity to solve problems around them.”
Link: Minneapolis Parks.
About Cynthia Simba, Mshale Reporter
Cynthia is a graduate of the University of Minnesota School of Journalism. She has interned at Mshale and Voice of America and previously worked at the Minnesota Daily. She recently returned from Seoul, South Korea where she was an English educator.