Eric Maina Mwangi shares his thoughts after returning to Kenya following the Kenyatta University/University of Cincinnati Exchange.

These are ideas that I have struggled to write for a very long time.

It’s been about a week since I got back from an exchange program with the students at the University of Cincinnati – Ohio. Every day hence, one question in particular has lingered at the back of my mind and has finally made in-roads into my heart and as such, it has been weighing heavily on my conscience.

The question refers – “How did they even get there?”

Who? – The students and faculty of the College-Conservatory of Music, Drama and E-Media. One look into their theatres during a show and you feel the difference. Tickets actually sell out, for that musical, play or any other form of ensemble showing at the university’s theatre. How did they even get there?

I recently acquired some photos from one of their major productions which I only got to drool over the opening sequence – the shortest 10 minutes of my life! A musical was in action, in front of a receptive last audience of the show, on the Sunday of 1st November 2015. The musical was called Carousel. A look at some of their productions and you realize what sort of energy, team work and creative genius goes into their art… How did they even get there?

(Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CAROUSEL presented by CCM Musical Theatre)

I got to attend several classes where THE WHOLE TIME we were standing and when seated, it was in preparation for some activity, as we were made aware of what to expect when the activity is over. We worked in teams. We trusted strangers – they trusted us the more. We broke borders. We learned new creative vocabulary – we conflicted, changed languages and all through this WE BECAME ONE! – How we even get there?

I’ll tell you how.

TWO words make the whole difference: COMPETITION And COOPERATION. Here’s the difference between the two.

A simple look at how the students in the CCM DRAMA interacted and worked, would answer it all. Students come into the school as individuals and leave as individuals – COMPETITION (as in rivalry) – but none of that is seen. In this campus, there’s very little rivalry and if any, it’s not as stressed upon as back home. So what then, if there’s no competition?

(Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CAROUSEL presented by CCM Musical Theatre)

In this school COOPERATION is everything. Teams are formed very quickly, without favoritism, students get into groups real quick without considering whom they are getting into groups with – they just get into groups! Pieces of art are created through cooperation and the DIFFERENCE is, in Cooperation, they compete against themselves both individually and in a pluralistic manner. Competitiveness is seen when you are not able to pick a particular actor over another because both are brilliant artists! – How did they even get there?


Until you and I understand that ANY form of ensemble requires COLLABORATION, COOPERATION and SACRIFICE, you and I are always going to be in a dissatisfying race to outshine each other, and that renders the whole piece of art shallow!

(Rodgers and Hammerstein’s CAROUSEL presented by CCM Musical Theatre)

(Eric Maina Mwangi hard at work collaborating, cooperating, and sacrificing as director of the film SUNDAY as part of the CCM 48 Hour Film Festival at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.)

– Guest contributor: Eric Maina Mwangi, Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya, Class of 2016

This entry was published on November 19, 2015 at 5:03 am. It’s filed under Culture, People, Places, Random Thoughts, Teaching, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.


  1. This is so insightful for all of us. Thank you!

  2. Eric, remember the “heart” your guide to creativity…your words are as beautiful as your eye(your transformative vision of the world), become the artist you are meant to be!

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