Tuesday, 22 November 2016

British Council Kenya awards 8 of 11 collaborative art projects to Kenyan Creative


By Margaretta wa Gacheru (margaretta.gacheru@gmail.com)

British Council Kenya has given a big boost to the East African arts scene with its recent selection of awardees who responded to BC’s July 2016 open call to take part in its ‘new Art new Audiences’ project.

The call was extended specifically to artists and art organization across East Africa, including Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia as well as across the UK.

The goal of the project, according to Sandra Chege, BC’s new Arts and Communications Manager, “is to facilitate new art and innovative collaborations between artists and audiences in the UK and in the region.”

Out of 217 applications received, only 11 were selected projects were selected. And of those 11, eight came from Kenya in collaboration with other artists and/or arts organizations from East Africa and the UK. In all, more than 30 East African and UK artists and art organizations will be participating in the project. Among the winners are fashion designers, dancers, musicians, filmmakers, photographers, poets, thespians, curators and visual artists, writers, hair stylists and digital artists.

Making the announcement last Friday of the specific grant awardees, the British Council Kenya Country Director, Tony Reilly explained the rational for BC’s developing the ‘new Art new Audiences’ project.

“Arts are a cornerstone of the British Council’s work to create friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and the wider world.”

And speaking directly to the awardees who’d come to BC’s High Ridge offices to be notified in person of their success, he added: “We are looking forward to witnessing the dynamic new art that [will be] created and shown to audiences in the UK and East Africa.”

Only four of the eight projects were represented last Friday. They included The Textile Print Project, represented by fashion designer Diana Opoti who will be working with Ugandan, Rwandese and UK  designers to create new textiles inspired by traditional African fabric designs; the Jalada Mobile Literary Festival and Literary Bus Tour designed by Jalada’s Moses Kilolo and Richard Oduor in collaboration with artists and translators from Rwanda and the UK; Meet me Outside, represented by Eugene Lowell who will develop a ‘film trilogy’ devised with film, music and photography by Eugene and other artists from Tanzania and UK; and M-Brace, an outdoor dance project created by the Pamoja Dance troupe together with disabled and non-disabled dancers from Uganda and UK, and represented by Joseph Muriithi.

The other four projects in which Kenya is collaborating include the Future Friends Portal which will engage curators from the UK together with artists, designers, musicians and ‘thinkers’ from Kenya and Ethiopia; the Trans Luo Express which will be involved in the collection and production of ‘transnational’ Luo music from Uganda, Kenya and UK; Man the Unfree, based on the essay (of the same name) by the late Ugandan writer and literary giant, Okot p’Bitek, featuring dance, poetry, performance and a digital art installation involving artists and art institutions from Kenya, Rwanda and UK; and finally, Components, which will feature a set of collaborative DJ-led performances involving Rwandese, Kenyan and British musicians and music producers together with Kenyan DJ Gregg Tendwa and East African promoters who will stage shows all across Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and the UK.

The other three projects are Salooni, which will address issues related to the politics of hair (be it straightened, braided, woven or bewigged) and     engage hair stylists, thespians, filmmakers and photographers from Uganda, Rwanda, Ghana and the UK; Out of the Blue, a digital collaboration between artists from Kampala, Kigali and Bristol, UK that will address issues affecting youth using interactive social media; and finally, the ZineFutures East Africa, involving online animators and storytellers in the creation, viewing and discussion of illustrated storytelling through the ‘easy-to-produce’ art (maga)zines and books made by Ugandan and Rwandese artists and showcased in London.

According to BC’s Head of Art East Africa, Rocca Gutteridge, these multimedia collaborations are bound to create “connections between contemporary East African and British culture [which] is the core BC’ East African Arts programme.”

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