The pandemic has been tough for us all, but for Keeke Art, it has allowed her to pursue her dreams with passion, creating a road safety game in her native Kenya.
What is the connection between Keeke Art and the Road Safety? Undoubtedly, the recent COVID-19 pandemic has caused us various challenges and shortcomings. However, it also made us see through the routine, step outside of our comfort zone and rethink our lives.
This time served a good purpose for Mijide Kemoli, living in Nairobi, Kenya. Since the last time we spoke to her in June, she managed to launch her website and is also in the process of developing a pedestrian-themed card game that stems from the main game which shall be released in 2021.
Read on for this follow-up story to see how Kemoli does not surrender in the face of unfortunate circumstances.
In this piece, she shares more on the launching of her website, on how the pandemic made her realize how passionate she is about educational game development and using it as a tool to make a positive difference in her community.
Taking into account that she combines business, illustration and youth activism at the same time, she elaborates on how these three co-exist and what her best advice is for young people struggling to make their ideas happen.
In the beginning of our conversation, she says that it is definitely an incredible feeling given that one year ago, she never would have imagined something as serious and life-changing as a global pandemic would provide the push she needed to revise the entire game and create the final product that she has.
“The last copy of the game that I printed before all the revisions were made had been sitting on my bookshelf for about a year and I kept trying to think of what to do with it.
How would I use it to make an impact especially since I felt it still needed a lot of work? The hardest part of it all was not knowing where to begin.”
However, once the coronavirus pandemic began spreading in Kenya and all the other projects she had running at the time ground to a halt, Kemoli, in her own words, was forced out of her comfort zone and that’s when she began thinking out of the box.
“The new version of the game contains an even bigger game board, seven decks of 41 unique cards each and money as well. The challenges are even greater and so are the consequences. I am super excited to finally have the physical copy in my hands. I cannot wait!”
“Come to think of it, that is something that happened as a result of the pandemic.
This period allowed me to realize how passionate I am about educational game development and using it as a tool to make a difference and I am thankful that organisations both locally and internationally are starting to take interest in exploring this creative avenue.”
In addition, you can check out her website (www.keekeart.com) to see more about the work she is doing in game development.
An Inspiring Experience
“An interesting game which makes you reflect on how you behave and react to situations in traffic. I would recommend people of all ages to play this game,” writes Arnold M. (Berlin, Germany) on the site’s reviews section.
Kemoli, for Youth Time, shares that this definitely was beyond her expectations in the beginning, and also what the main age group for her game is currently.
She reminds us that when she designed the game at first, its main aim was to educate audiences on road safety using an unconventional method.
“However, once people began playing the game, to my surprise, they came to really enjoy it and wanted to play it over and over again. Some even asked where they could purchase the game.”
Kemoli dwells on her most humbling experience by far.
“I unexpectedly ended up playing the game with five little girls between the ages of about 9 and 12 (if I remember correctly). They had seen the game and asked if they could play and I was reluctant at first because it contains elements that I felt they were too young for such as bribery and corruption.
“This is unfortunately commonplace when it comes to Kenyan road culture. The girls insisted on playing so I obliged and, to my surprise once again, they thoroughly enjoyed the game and offered to spread the word about it.”
Nevertheless, she was shocked to learn that they were aware of the corruption that exists on Kenyan roads and the fact that it is wrong to encourage it.
“It ended up becoming an incredible learning experience!”
“This has inspired me to eventually develop another road-safety-themed board game for kids and teens below the age of 16 given that the current game targets players aged 16 and above. This will take some time to design and create though because of the research required so it will not be available anytime soon.”
Arousing Curiosity in Kenya and Beyond
Among other engagements, she is also in the process of developing a pedestrian-themed card game that stems from the main game, which will be released in 2021, and different organisations are beginning to show interest in incorporating gaming elements in their materials.
She further explains the whole idea behind this, and how is she planning to do it and why she finds it important in awareness-raising.
“After designing the signature board game for my game development business, I knew I wanted to grow more as an expert in this niche and learn other techniques and gaming dynamics that can not only broaden my reach audience-wise but also the strategic approaches I employ in order to leave a positive impact.
“Thankfully, various non-profit organisations both in Kenya and beyond are also curious about how they can use tabletop games in education and information dissemination.
“The world as we know it is changing every day and so is the way that we learn and internalise knowledge. We no longer have to go the traditional route of thick textbooks and lots of note-taking.”
She further reminds us that we can try and incorporate methods like gaming especially when it comes to issues that are harder to grasp or that are uncomfortable to discuss.
“This allows participants to open up more freely within a relaxed, calm and informal environment. Furthermore, allowing them to take part in role-play themed games allow them to experience what life is like as seen through the eyes of someone else that is living under different circumstances.
This encourages feelings of empathy and can then drive participants to want to make a change.”
Kemoli is a young activist seemingly perfectly combining business, illustration and youth activism at the same time.
How do these three co-exist and what would be her best advice for young people struggling to make their ideas happen?
“This is me using my passion as a tool to grow professionally as I make an impact in the society concerning issues that I have a deep passion for. It is not the easiest combination to achieve but once it is realised, it is truly fulfilling. “
Start With Just One Person
According to her, we all wish to make something of ourselves and we would be happiest if we do so while doing something we love.
“My journey now is realising this goal as I impact audiences along the way in order to create a better community, country and, hopefully, world for my children and their children.”
Having said that, she encourages the youth out there to view their skill-set and passion points through an additional lens.
“As you grow in your fields of interest and acquire all the knowledge that you can, think of how you can then take it a step further and use it to make a difference in someone’s life other than your own. You don’t have to give yourself too much pressure.
“You can start with just one person and grow from there. Even if you end up only directly impacting one person’s life, the ripple effects may just astound you.”
Mijide Kemoli is a socio-educational board game designer that centres her work on causes that are close to her heart. Having mastered the use of digital software, she creates tabletop games that provoke and engage her audience so as to not only educate them on important issues, but also inspire positive change. Mijide’s compassion is what sets her aside as an illustrator and her roles in social enterprise and community work make her ideal for any creative gamification role.
Photos: Keeke Art and 92X Photography
If you haven’t read our first piece with Kemoli, you can check it out HERE.
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