Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ask Not What Your Government Can Do For You But...

Hmmm! I'm really lazy. 

No wonder am founder/director of Lazyism, a movement that intellectualizes minimal work by putting thought into doing nothing... but that's a story for another day.

I haven't published for 5... Maybe 6 months. Been doing some reading and mercenary writing in between lazying about... long story.

But now am back!

March 4th heralded a (not so) new chapter in the Kenyan history. Elections. Whether transparent, free and fair is beyond point. My preferred candidate didn't win but oddly enough the winner's manifesto had something about the industry I jaywalk in.

As a not-so-young artist, I've been practicing professionally during the two previous governments’ tenure and coupled with a culture ministry that doesn't comprehend my visual art practice, I've never heard any ‘senior’ government official utter any word that is remotely connected to the contemporary visual arts practice in Kenya. 
On numerous occasions, I've angrily listened to government representatives and technocrats go about their rhetoric when reading written-for-them speeches while not at all believing or even understanding what they are bubbling about. I must admit I had personally lost hope of any serious government involvement in the visual arts...

Until the Jubilee Coalition came to the scene!

Forget the solar powered laptops... and the world class stadia. Someone seems to have done their research. It may not be comprehensive but it’s the thought that counts. Am either bloody optimistic or naively believing a white lie just like a good girl swallowing hook, line and sinker serious bulls**t from a good-for-nothing common thug.

Extracts from the Jubilee Manifesto:
“… Our collective love of sport and the arts is one of the strongest factors that unite us. At home our culture is vibrant and thriving. However, successive governments have too often neglected sports and creative industries. As a result, the potential in these sectors has not been accorded a chance to improve our quality of life or boost our economy. While we have some of the best creative talent in Africa, our copyright laws and production systems seem skewed against them.
We will take measures to ensure that they are able to flourish and contribute to our economic growth and general well-being as a nation.
We will pursue tax incentives for individual and private sector investing in Sports, Arts & Entertainment sectors. We shall establish a series of ‘creative industry hubs’ with full infrastructure facilities such as high-speed internet facilities and design studios as low-cost incubators for new creative industry offshoots and artists. Fund cultural and sporting projects and facilities and increase support for the Kenya Film Commission…”

It’s quite ambitious me thinks. And if they really are serious, they need all hands on deck! 

Now the ball is in the important peoples' court. The cultural managers, Curators running public spaces, lecturers of public universities, writers with influential platforms, senior artists-those with presidential honors and awards. Those (that work in the industry) with important titles, those whose signatures on letterheaded emperor paper can get you an American visa (no pun intended). 

Maybe it's time to disregard all those bottlenecks that previous governments have used and start all over again. Maybe it's time to set up that task force. It could be a time to lobby! 

It is now up to us to keep them in check. To demand what they have promised. And if they’re clueless, it’s for us to help them achieve that dream.

People listen to (very) important persons, Doors are opened to people with titles. Maybe this year is the year. I got hope. Don't care whether it's false but I got it. What's more? I saw paintings in the president's house when he was getting his security briefing.

If this government just tries to implement the creative clause, it won't matter who I voted for. All that will count will be that they will have kept their word and that will be a massive shot in the arm of the visual arts.

I hope that one day in 2013 we shall witness the formation of a very professional Kenya National Arts Council and we shall attend an exhibition opening at our highly reputable National Art Gallery with our president Uhuru Kenyatta in attendance as Patron of the arts. 

But kama tulidanganywa, pia ni sawa tu. Sasa tungoje!

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