The 4th Annual Award Ceremony of the 2016 MASK Prize took place at the Michael Joseph Art Centre in Nairobi on June 23. The MASK Prize is a national creativity competition for schools and young people, themed “Young People - The Creative Nation”. Thirty winners of the cash prizes (Sh300,000 in total), 20 recipients of the ‘highly commended’ certificates, and other participants with their friends and family came to the awards from as far as Lamu, Mombasa and Eldoret.
Comments those present shared include: “Wonderful event”, “Lovely and amazing”, “I was in awe”, “It is a great honour”, “I gained a lot from the competition, and I am a better person for it”, “The initiative helps us a lot”, “Today, a dream comes true!”, “Getting a certificate motivated me to be even more creative”, and “I urge you to continue inspiring us as young artists”.
The competition, organised by the MASK School for Creativity and Innovation, hopes to encourage teachers to strengthen art education in their schools, and to challenge young Kenyans to reflect on creative and innovative ways of thinking and doing things.
More than 1,300 works were submitted this year, a record number, in the Visual Arts, Music/Videos, Schools, and Entrepreneurial Ideas categories. The participants represented 35 Kenyan regions, as well as Tanzania and South Africa. The Star, media partner of the MASK Prize, has made the programme truly international.
Prizes and certificates were awarded by Turk and Christy Pipkin — founders of the Nobelity Project, a US charity that develops infrastructure in Kenyan schools — and by Alan Rivers, founder of Rivers Foundation from the UK that funds several education and environment programmes in Kenya. Supporting the prizes, Alan, Turk and Christy came to Kenya from the UK and the US specially to meet the participants.
More than 130 shortlisted artworks were exhibited at the awards. The works now will travel to London and will be shown at the Saatchi Gallery in October.
Last year, the MASK Prize winners successfully collaborated with animation students of the University for the Creative Arts in the UK. The animations were shown at the award ceremony to encourage Kenyans to collaborate with other young people across the world to create together new exciting artworks. Next year, the MASK Prize joins forces with the Turner Contemporary Gallery, a leading public gallery in the UK, to exchange exhibitions and publications.
Creativity — the ability to solve problems in new effective ways — is a powerful skill that can enable our children to succeed in whatever they do in their adult lives. Academic qualifications are no longer enough. In the 21st century, employers need creative people: 72 per cent of companies’ chief executives say that hiring creative employees is a priority; 75 per cent of Africa-based business leaders report that the lack of employees who think creatively threatens their companies’ growth and even survival.
Creative people change and transform their lives and societies. However, if we don’t support creative thinking in our youths, by the age of 25, they can simply lose their ability to think “outside the box”, and with that, the chance to succeed in life.
At the 2016 MASK Prize Awards, a mother of one of the winners came on stage with her grown son. She took a microphone and said proudly she supported her son in his creativity from his early age.
I applaud to this mother; congratulations to her! And to all 2016 MASK Prize participants, their families and teachers!
The 2017 MASK Prize will open its submissions in January 2017, on www.mobileartschoolinkenya.org/mask-prize.