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December 14, 2018

How to Look at Art: Young Kenyans' creativity is critical to Vision 2030

First Prize winner Edwin Wainaina, 20, Alla Tkachuk and Mabati Rolling Mills marketing manager David Kimathi
First Prize winner Edwin Wainaina, 20, Alla Tkachuk and Mabati Rolling Mills marketing manager David Kimathi

More than 70 prizes totalling Sh300,000 were awarded to the winners of the 2017 MASK Prize during its Award Ceremony at Michael Joseph Centre in Nairobi on April 27. More than 400 guests attended, including legendary broadcaster Jeff Koinange, Mabati Rolling Mills marketing manager David Kimathi and Education ministry quality assurance senior assistant director Majani Alex, as well as MASK Prize founder Alla Tkachuk. 

The ceremony was the culmination of hundreds of young people sending in the proofs of their creativity (creativity is the 'outside-box' problem-solving skill, the ability to generate new ideas) expressed though visual art, music and entrepreneurial ideas. The exhibition of more than 150 shortlisted out of 2,000 entries accompanied the awards, illustrating the outstanding inventiveness of young Kenyans, Ugandans, Tanzanians and South Africans. This exhibition will travel to Turner Contemporary public gallery the UK in May.  

Four Kenyan schools won the School Prize, sponsored by visionary Christy and Turk Pipkin of the Nobelity Project. Edwin Wainaina, 20, won the First Prize in the Visual Arts category. Other 60 winners also won prizes in this category sponsored by the philanthropist Alan Rivers of the Rivers Foundation. Seven awards were given out in the Entrepreneurial Ideas category supported by a forward-looking company the Mabati Rolling Mills. The participants thanked the organisers for believing in them and having a good time participating. For the full winners' list, visit:

Jeff Koinnange, an avid collector of African art and a new patron of MASK, praised the artists. Experimenting and inventing through art makes young people creative. Creativity helps them succeed in whatever they do in life.

"We are proud to support the creativity of our children through the various arts," said the parents at the ceremony. "Strengthening creativity through art, our children will apply the skill across all school subjects, and later in their professional lives, achieving great successes." One parent was so impressed by what he saw, he came up to the stage and announced he is donating five school bursaries. Creativity inspires!

Creative young people are essential to the Kenya Vision 2030, which aims to make Kenya a newly industrialising country. The Vision's Economic Pillar - a 10 per cent annual economic growth - is simply not possible without strengthening creativity of young people. The competitive economy needs the creative workforce that is capable of generating and implementing new ideas and solutions.

Majani asserted the government's commitment to creativity. New school curriculum reforms have just made creativity one of the seven 'core competencies' schools must develop in students. 

I hope the Kenyan business will support creativity, too. So far, the Kenya businesses told us 'innovation culture is weak in Kenya' (creativity in business is called innovation). Some businesses have failed to realise that teaching 'outside-box' thinking in schools directly benefits their companies' profitability. Igniting creativity of the young, the MASK Prize has been a triumph. With the help of its media partner the Star, the MASK Prize has reached thousands of people. We invite young entrepreneurs and visionary business leaders to join the MASK Prize movement to make creativity a real power in Kenya and beyond.  



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

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