Project work in Kenya

The post-election riots in Kenya in 2007 with many people killed and injured is still an open wound in society. Even though troubles between ethnic groups have been seen before, the strength and cruelty of the reactions in 2007 shook people from the ground. How could it happen?

At the opening of Kenyan Artist Peterson Kamwathi’s exhibition at Goethe-Institute in Nairobi on June 23, both of the inaugural speakers talk about the riots and the fact that no-one, still after two years, has been put to justice. Kamwathi’s exhibition ”Sitting Allowance” is a direct reaction of the environment before and after the election in 2007. In a text the Artist himself describes his work:

” The composition of these drawings is inspired by formal photos. The formal posture is meant to depict the rigidity and conformity that at many times is prevalent within institutions. Institutions are champions of formality and while there is nothing wrong with that, at times formality can be at the expense of humanity”.

Many we meet talk about the riots and the importance of building a positive development. Next election is in 2012 and the fear is that the same will happen. At Godown Art Center Art and culture are important factors for development, both societal and economical. The Art center is still a work-in-progress, Joy Mboya and Judy Ogana tell us as we walk around the compounds. They managed to get a hold of localities in an industrial area in Nairobi and have made it into an Art center with studios for Artists, renting out places for music studios, dance company, puppet maker. They also have an exhibition hall and a performance stage. They wanted to – among many other things – give Artists a sense of belonging, a place where they could go to perform, paint, and exhibit.

We are here for a week to prepare for a project and event that aim to bring investors, donors and businesses together with cultural entrepreneurs and organisations from Kenya and Sweden. The funding gap between cultural field and funding bodies is universal. But there is also another side. As the creative field is growing and becoming more important for economy there is a growing interest from investors to find partners in creative field. But they have a hard time finding where and with whom to invest. So what will happen if we bring these two together around the same table?

The project is a project funded by the Swedish Institute and Strömme Foundation and run by Pratik Vithlani at Mangowalla Ventures in cooperation with Godown and Nätverkstan.

Reports and links on Kenya will be posted on this site. For now, have a look at African Colours, an Internet portal for African contemporary Artists.

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