News / Africa

Young Kenyan Artists Face Tough Market

Roopa Gogineni
NAIROBI — Contemporary art in Kenya is facing challenges. Art education in schools is lacking, and the art market, dominated by tourists and expatriates, tends to stifle experimentation. Despite this, two young artists are producing innovative work, encouraged by an unusual art gallery.

At the Kuona Trust, a visual arts center in a Nairobi suburb, artists work out of converted shipping containers.
 
Kuona's mission is to provide opportunities for its artists to produce world-class art in Kenya.  

"Selling is a really big problem for artists here," noted Slyvia Gichia, the director of the Kuona Trust.  "We don't have a very informed audience in the local scene, unless we're talking about expats or we're talking about tourists coming, so what tends to happen is a lot of artists start to create work for the tourist market, versus just contemporary art."  

Kuona is encouraging experimentation.  Its gallery currently features the conceptual work of Maryann Muthoni.  "As much as we love being in our own studio comfort zones creating, I think we should also have a role in society," Muthoni said.

Muthoni's exhibit is called the Women's Vote.  It addresses the role of Kenyan women in the electoral process and in the country's leadership.

Young Kenyan artists are largely self-taught. Art was dropped from the curriculum in Kenyan schools nearly 10 years ago.  

Renee Mboya is a program coordinator at Kuona, she says that had an impact on young artists. "They come from a more informal background, so mostly artists that have worked previously in 3D and have hardly been exposed to what we consider traditional art, you know, painting on canvas," explained Mboya.

Cyrus Kabiru, a sculptor and painter, grew up making sculptures of eyeglasses from things he found around the house.  "I was a bad example in the community," said Kabiru.  "They used to tell the kids, like my cousins, study hard, or else you'll be like Cyrus!"

Kabiru's sculptures, called "C-STUNNERS," have won international attention. This year, he was selected as a TED Global Fellow. The program brings together young innovators from around the world.  

On a recent trip to meet British collectors and museum curators, he says he met a Kenyan politician who knew little about Kenyan art and he also met some students.
 
"[The students] just shouted, 'Oh I know this guy! Oh he made this this and this!' But they don't know the politician. So I feel like…I am headed somewhere."

Slowly, young visual artists in Kenya are making progress in gaining a local audience.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Mary Sullivan from: Charleston, WV USA
August 22, 2012 3:55 PM
We appreciate your articles and the topics you cover.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More