Unlocking Creativity: Overcoming Funding Hurdles for Young Artists in Kenya

Africa Science News
Cristina Nord Director Geothe-Institut Nairobi during an interview at her officeIsack Kweyu

By Lenah Bosibori

Nairobi is a vibrant hub where many young individuals immerse themselves in various cultural activities, including photography, design, and fashion. However, the journey for emerging artists is troubled with challenges, particularly as they transition from passion to profession.

One of the main challenges according to Cristina Nord Director Goethe-Institut Nairobi is lack of funding which remains a significant obstacle for promising young artists in Kenya. Nord notes that when they start at their early 20s, they practice it as a hobby but it becomes an obstacle as they mature and transition it as a profession.

“As artists mature, the struggle to sustain their careers deepens, largely due to the necessity of earning a livelihood from their craft. Conversations with artists reveal that maintaining artistic activities becomes increasingly difficult as they approach middle age, compared to the relaxed enjoyment experienced in their early twenties,” said Nord during an interview in Nairobi.

Nord has been in Kenya for the last nine months as the director of the institute and she envisions a collaboration with Kenyan cultural practitioners as it stands out as a fundamental to the projects the institute is carrying out.

Goethe Institut Nairobi is the official cultural institute of the Republic of Germany network. It promotes the study of the German language abroad and encourages international cultural exchange.

It also connects with partners across the country to foster Kenyan-German cultural and educational exchange through cultural projects and training, co-productions, school collaborations, information and knowledge platforms as well as German language teaching.

According to Nord, culture manifests in many expressions, encompassing attire, movement, hairstyles, films, music, visual arts, and literature. “Personally, my attraction is to films which I developed during my teenage years. Films serve as touching reflections of society, offering insights into human interactions and the pursuit of visual ideals,” adds Nord.

Last year, the Institute celebrated 60 years in Kenya and it is extending its support to providing spaces and funding for the development and realization of artistic ideas. “Our activities aim to offer a platform for Kenyan artists and writers, improving them from economic pressures as they mature in the field,” notes Nord.

Through exhibitions and initiatives like the “Remembering Kenya” book series launched in 2023, the institut has explored key moments in Kenyan history, such as the post-election violence of 2007/2008 where they have documented a book series.

These activities serve as catalysts for reflection on Kenya’s cultural and economic landscape, including its colonial history. Despite the challenges, the Institut remains committed to fostering dialogue and understanding through cultural expression.

Some of the major events of the Institut include Kibera Fashion Week, which is an annual event whose aim is to collaborate with Avido Foundation.

It also aims to initiate exchange around ethical fashion and sustainability, Support the local fashion industry through building local brands and markets and involve audiences to reflect on fashion and support local industries.

Some of its new projects in 2024 include a renovated library as a resource Centre to help in Printed and audio-visual media both in German and English that cover:

Literature, Kids books, German, Culture, Social Sciences, Language, Art, German Geography and Photography, Monthly, VR sessions, Kids events and school visits, Promotion of the Kenya Library Scene.

In addition, the Institut aims at decolonizing libraries that will help support research into how public libraries can be decolonized through a critical analysis of the Western knowledge systems and their influence on current perspectives and perceptions.

Nafasi network is also among its projects geared to encourage more dialogue and interdisciplinary collaboration between artists. Cultural spaces for all, fashioning Kenyanness, and Publication capture crucial moments in Kenya´s fashion and fashion photography history and explore the meaning of shifts and its historic relations and film programs.

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