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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs