Tuesday, February 28, 2012

“Can Africans save Africa?”

With reference to the Contemporary Kenyan Art Scene

While lazying about and flipping channels on TV after an uninspired painting session, I stumbled upon an interesting conversation on CNBC with the above title and tried to put it in a context in regard to my practice.

This made me re-evaluate my journey as an artist - How I started, where I am, where am headed, my expectations, frustrations and the far apart triumphs.
Brainstorming with like-minded artists (over some blended scotch), lots of conversations came up and the main issue was “the disconnect” between the Arts Schools, Art Spaces & the practicing Artists and the suspicions between the cultural organizations that makes it unable for them to run any art activity worth writing home about as a collective.

With the exception of Sarakasi Trust, all visual art organizations and art spaces are run by indigenous Kenyans and most artists agree that this may be a step in the right direction. This is fuelled by the notion that “Kenyans cultural managers will have the interest of Kenya art at heart.”

However, this does not seem to be the case as most organizations that were strong and very supportive of arts have either shifted their dynamics or are just not adapting to change (as fast as practicing artists are) leaving us wondering what their relevance or role in the arts is.

Events that graced the artistic calendar – The Kenya Museum Society Arts Festival, The East African Industries Art Competition, The Art Panorama, The HFCK Exhibition… etc. stopped happening without any information forthcoming and we’re left in the periphery as our neighbours hold annual Art Fairs, Biennales and art competitions re-writing their art history while we dwell in petty politics sometimes forgetting our relevance in the art world.

However, all is not lost as we have seen the emergence of Manjano, an annual Nairobi art exhibition & competition which has been running for 3 years (thanks to the GoDown Art Centre).

It is with this in mind that we’ve been flirting with the idea of bringing together all art practitioners and artists to one forum to talk, fight and have a laugh while addressing challenges related to our work and the possibilities of doing a collaborative projects together. The wish list would include; Practicing artists, Art Teachers (KU & BBIFA), Cultural Managers (Kuona, GoDown, African Colours, Banana Hill, Ngecha, Nuru Studios, Milele, CCAEA etc), Gallerists (Watatu, One Off, Nairobi Gallery), Government - on condition it’s not the sitting Culture Minister. Pun intended.

This should be an information platform where the participants try to define art in their terms, and tell the others their role and what they do, to create an understanding of each other and how we can complement each others practice.
The catch however is, this should not be another summit or seminar where guys sit, talk, earn healthy allowances and forget what they talked about immediately they sign above the dotted line, then off they go for shopping.

It should be a good time to have Kenyans talk about Kenyan issues as opposed to having expatriates sit round a table and decide what’s good for us and you never know, maybe at the end of it all, we may see a prestigious annual arts competition… or a Nairobi International Art Fair… or even a Kenyan Biennale.

Or maybe… It’s just a lazy artist dreaming!

1 comment:

  1. amazing! maggie and i were just talking about exactly this jana! great minds think alike? ;- )* let's make something happen? m for mutheu