Good, authentic artists are always socially conscious. Their profound understanding and deeper connection with the world simply does not allow them to be otherwise. They contribute to humanity by creating beauty, and this drives them to lift us up to the heights of the refinement.
“When Kenyan schools cut art education, my friends and I started arts clubs, scouting young kids and training them in art,” says Kenyan artist Sam Kimemia.
Art is essential in enabling our creative thinking, and it is a real shame that many schools opt out of art education. Children growing without art will be badly disadvantaged in adult life. In the century where, as Barak Obama said, ‘creativity is the currency’, we need more art, not less.
At the recent awarding ceremony of the Kenyan creativity competition, MASK Prize, in Nairobi, many progressive schools that understand the power of art education won prizes. In each of those schools, artists runs art clubs. Inspired, I spoke to two of them. Sam Kimemia and John Ngugi, both in their 30s, studied art at college and developed their own distinct styles and symbolism.
“In some of my works, I personify birds to tell my story,” says Sam. John describes his art as symbols of “music and femininity speaking of the emotions of life”. The duo run two arts clubs in Nairobi: Taswira and Cogri. “We want to foster creative habits of mind in our young to help them reach their full potential,” they say. Sam and John, and dozens of artists like them, are educators in the true sense of the word: they are bridges to creativity. With a lack of ego and the generosity of spirit to share their creativity with the young, living closely to their conscience, they are true social activists. I salute them! They change minds and attitudes. And, they set an example.
I was recently approached by artists from London. They wish to come to Kenya to share their art with children. “Enabling creativity is magic,” they said. If you, too, are an artist, whether professional, amateur or student, and can commit a few art-teaching hours in a Kenyan school, let us know. Be part of ‘magic’. Who knows, you may even win the ‘Bridges to Creativity’ award in next year’s MASK Prize.
Alla Tkachuk is a founder of the MASK School for Creativity and Innovation for young people in Kenya.