Wake Forest University

Art Speaks a Universal Language - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Art Speaks a Universal Language

Noella Luka is adjusting to living life in a foreign land—Winston-Salem.

Luka, a documentary film student, recently made the move from her home in Kenya to her “home away from home” at Wake Forest University.

From over 7,700 miles away, Luka continues to seek creative means of communication to teach communities in Kenya, and around the globe, about conservation and environmental stewardship. She describes herself as a storyteller who crafts local stories with global resonance.

“Storytelling gives me an unnerving responsibility to be an opinion leader, to evoke reactions and stir up conversations,” Luka said. “Through words, sounds, and images I attempt to portray a reflection of society, the importance of our actions, and possible solutions.”

In 2015, Luka joined the Laikipian—a youth movement that uses creativity to highlight conservation solutions from an African perspective. Through art, the Laikipian seeks to inspire a generation of informed conservationists. With the primary audience of kids and youth in mind, the Laikipian has successfully fused conservation education into board games, educational posters, a comic book series, and even a coloring book.

To date, the Laikipian have produced the “Hunt Me Not” comic book series, the “Mending Fences” comic book series, the “Let’s Go Wild” coloring book, several environmental posters, and even a conservation board game that will be complete in early 2017.

Materials disseminated by the Laikipian serve as teaching aids in schools, community groups, and for the general public. Some of the posters have even been used as models for wall murals painted on school walls and town centers. To date, the posters alone have reached over 6,000 students in over 50 schools and in 18 communities. As more of the group’s materials are placed online, the reach continues to broaden to outside audiences.

“The Laikipian is a movement that’s close to my heart, I discovered the group at a time when both of us were trying to find outlets in creating conservation content and awareness in Kenya and beyond,” Luka said.

To Luka, art is a universal language that can be harnessed to build an informed network of young sustainability champions who will ultimately play a pivotal role in reversing current trends of environmental degradation in Kenya.

“Blending In,” an independent documentary, is Luka’s favorite project to date—it is also the project that introduced Luka to the Laikipian team. She describes it as a labor of love and a project of passion.

The story focuses on how communities living along Kenya’s Tana Delta region are using local solutions to mitigate climate change. In this region, the communities of farmers, fishermen, and pastoralists have a history of conflict due to depleting resources of land and water.

Serving as co-executive producer, co-producer, director, and voiceover artist, Luka and a five person crew took first place in both the Inaugural Mohammed Amin Media Awards (MAAMAS 2015) and runners up the Africa Climate Change and Environmental Awards (ACCER 2014).

“Going to communities that live miles from each other and who do not know the term climate change as we know it was a humbling experience,” Luka said.

Luka’s experience with “Blending In” eventually landed her a spot in the Wake Forest Documentary Film program.

“My daily prayer is God please give me the strength to fulfill my passion. Hold my hand through this journey as I seek to mentor others by being a compelling African storyteller.”

Examples of Luka’s work with the Laikipian are shown below. For updates, follow the Laikipian on Twitter (@TheLaikipian) and on Facebook (The Laikipian).


The Make Your Choice poster is one of many produced by the Laikipian team. Each poster reflects simplified concepts on how anthropogenic activities can drive deterioration in our environment. On the other hand, each poster also visualizes interventions that are environmentally friendly and would result in a sustainable coexistence between humans and the environment.


Mending Fences was a commissioned comic book series highlighting the human-wildlife conflict in Laikipia, Kenya. Ultimately, the comic book brings to light the underlying issues between humans and elephants and seeks to encourage individuals to be accountable for their action.