DUOS FESTIVAL

Kenyan artists head to Poland in November for art exchange

This is part of the Transcultural perspectives in Art and Education Project

In Summary

• The idea of the festival is eight artists from Kenya and eight from Poland meet for one month in pairs.

• They then work together on the project with students and local community to come up with different themes of art

Owen Lucas, a student at Pwani University, shows some of the artwork during the Duos festival
Owen Lucas, a student at Pwani University, shows some of the artwork during the Duos festival
Image: ALPHONCE GARI

There was pomp and colour in Kilifi town at the weekend as local and international artists from Poland exhibited their diverse talents to mark the second series of the Duos festival.

The festival whose theme is empowering women through art brought together artists from Poland and Kenya, who exchanged ideas and practised with students and the community.

It featured pairings of artists from Kilifi and their counterparts and/or instructors from the Art Academy of Szczecin, a city in Northwest Poland.

This is part of the Transcultural perspectives in the Art and Education Project.

The artists exhibited their work in different locations from the Art studio in Kilifi, the Mazingira park, and showcased different performances at the Tribes Banda Hotel.

Kenyan artists in November will travel to Poland for a corresponding exhibition at the National Museum in Szczecin.

The artists from Poland showed the work they made with Pwani University students.

The Duos were showcasing the work they have been doing for the last three weeks. It includes animation, journalism, dance, music, textile design for people to see.

TPAAE is expected to result in the creation of degree programmes in fine art and design at Pwani University.

The Duos festival took Mijikenda heroine Mekatilili Menza as their honorary patron, with the Kenyan artists being members of Daughters of Mekatilili, a cultural association that supports female empowerment through art activism.

Polish artists admire the installation sculpture at the Mazingira park
Polish artists admire the installation sculpture at the Mazingira park
Image: ALPHONCE GARI

Journalists witnessed the work of the artists from the studio where some of the work is presented, Mazingira park and at Pwani University where they presented street art.

There was also a session for children who produced some artworks at a school in Kilifi.

The climax was at Tribe Bandas and Distant Relatives where there were traditional performances.

Zorka Wollny, the curator and director of Duos Festival, said the event was part of a big project dedicated to art and education.

Wollny said they work with many partners through the funding from the European Union's horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

“Here in Kenya, we are coming from the academy of fine arts from Poland. We work here with Kenyatta University, Pwani University, partners from local communities, the Technical University of Mombasa and National Museums of Poland,” she said.

She said the festival idea is for eight artists from Kenya and eight from Poland to meet for one month in pairs and work together on the project with students and the local community to come up with different themes of art.

Lawyer George Kithi, who is aspiring to be Kilifi senator, with artists from Kenya and Poland dUring the Duos festival in Kilifi
Lawyer George Kithi, who is aspiring to be Kilifi senator, with artists from Kenya and Poland dUring the Duos festival in Kilifi
Image: ALPHONCE GARI

“The festival is dedicated to the people of Kilifi, young, creative, talented people. All these events are just for free to share the knowledge and the experience,” she said.

She said they were happy to collaborate with Kenyan artists as they learnt how art and education can function in other parts of the world.

Shila Okanga, one of the artists who has been paired with a Polish, said they were doing animation with six students from the university and the community and they are all interested in animation.

“I am really grateful for this programme because it is giving a chance for the people of the Coast region to develop a perspective about their talents. Earlier, they would go to a hotel and perform for free,” she said.

Lawyer George Kithi, who was one of the sponsors, said art not only connects people but also uplifts talents and makes people realise they can have comfort in art.

“Music brings us an opportunity, art and culture. So we are here, one to promote that, two to create synergy, awareness but most importantly encourage the artists, especially the youth," he said. 

Part of the idea of the festival is also to create awareness about challenges faced by the community, including increases violence against women and teenage pregnancies and provide people with ideas and avenues for dealing with the issues.