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December 13, 2018

Mask Prize: Creativity a core competence for youths to have

Dolly Tree Trunk, Sofia Mohammed, 10
Dolly Tree Trunk, Sofia Mohammed, 10

On Thursday April 27, at 1pm, the renowned pan-African creativity competition the 2017 MASK Prize holds its awarding ceremony at the Michael Joseph Art Centre in Nairobi.  More than 60 cash prizes totalling Sh300,000 will be awarded to schools and young people in the categories of Visual Arts, Music, Schools, and Entrepreneurial Ideas. Entry is free. All are welcome.  

The MASK Prize is not your usual art competition: it does not look for ‘the next big artist’. Instead, it encourages inventiveness, outside-box thinking, and risk-taking. It challenges young Africans to rethink such attitudes as ‘This is how we have always done things’ and replace it with ‘How do we change things to achieve the improvement or breakthrough?' Creative young people are better problem solvers and, therefore, they are more effective in whatever they do. “To take part in the MASK Prize, you do not need to be a 'good artist', you need to be a good thinker. The MASK Prize motivates us to be even more creative, and makes us better for it," say the participants.

Partnered by the Kenyan newspaper the Star, the MASK Prize has attracted thousands of young people across Kenya and beyond. Up to half a million people have seen its exhibitions at the Nairobi National Museum and some of the leading cultural centres around the world. 

Its prizes have been supported by the visionary entrepreneur Alan Rivers of the Rivers Foundation that funds many youth development projects around the world, the inspirational Founders of the Nobelity Project Christy and Turk Pipkin that develop education infrastructure in Kenya, and the Mabati Roling Mills, the leading steel roofing manufacturers and philanthropists in Africa, as well as other committed and forward-thinking donors and supporters. 

To celebrate its fifth year, the MASK Prize is pairing up with the Portfolio Competition of Turner Contemporary, a leading public gallery in the UK. Sharing the theme, 'Making a Change', the winners will exhibit together at Turner Contemporary in May-September. The portfolio works will be displayed during the forthcoming MASK Prize Award Ceremony. It is important for young people to come together and exchange their creative ideas for the changes they wish to see in the world. 

Recently, the Kenya Curriculum Reform for Basic Education made creativity a ‘core competence’ young Kenyans must develop in school and bring to the marketplace to drive Kenya’s productivity and economic growth. In the 21st century, this will be marked by rapid technological changes. Creativity, the ‘at will’ ability to solve problems ‘outside the box’, is key to success.

But, for creativity education to be effective, there must be a strong appreciation of creativity and innovation culture by a whole society. Art, that is integral to creativity learning, must be seen as a positive force, not as ‘idle’, ‘useless’ or ‘luxury’. 

As well as igniting creativity of the young, the MASK Prize hopes to catalyse passionate belief in art and creativity by all members of society.  

As the world undergoes deep transformational changes, ‘investment in creativity is as important as infrastructure, skills and markets’, says the World Economic Forum. If you believe that our future depends on the ability of creative young people to generate new solutions for more peaceful and prosperous life, sponsor the MASK Prize. 


Alla Tkachuk is creativity training specialist, the Founder of the MASK Prize, [email protected]

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