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January 21, 2019

How to look at art: Creativity is economic necessity

‘GeopSpatial’ by Denzel Kamau, 21, Nairobi, contestant of the 2018 MASK Prize
‘GeopSpatial’ by Denzel Kamau, 21, Nairobi, contestant of the 2018 MASK Prize

The 2018 MASK Prize — the triumphant creativity competition in Africa — is in the middle of its submission stage; the deadline for entries is April 1.  All schools and young people under the age of 25 can win prizes totalling Sh500,000 by entering their artworks free online. Prizes will be presented at the awarding ceremony in Nairobi on May 26. 

The MASK Prize will also acknowledge the visionary leaders who promote creativity in Africa with its ‘Business Leaders for Creativity Award’. The non-profit MASK Prize is supported by the Kenyan leading national newspaper The Star, the Kenyan number one TV station Citizen TV, Mayfair Insurance, Mabati Rolling Mills, Rivers Foundation and the Nobelity Project. It was pioneered by a UK education charity, MASK. Enter the 2018 MASK Prize now on:

The MASK Prize is a new approach to educating the new generation of Africans for creativity. Reaching large numbers of participants, it motivates them to be creative and inspires openness, energy and diversity. Creativity has a far-reaching effect on young people’s intellectual capacity, personality, work ethics and social behaviour. Creative, they are more employable, effective and successful. Generating new ideas and innovative solutions, they are the source of growth and prosperity. “How effectively education fosters creativity is now at the centre of the relationship between education and economic prosperity,” says the World Economic Forum (WEF) in its ‘New Vision for Education’ report.

We live during the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Mobile computing. Artificial intelligence. Self-driving cars. Neuro-technological brain enhancements. Genetic editing. The new technologies are fusing the digital, physical and biological worlds and challenging the ideas about what it means to be human. In this world, the ability to think creatively is a critical competence, “as important as infrastructure, skills and markets”, according to the WEF. In the time when traditional skills can be automated, the creative skill becomes vital. Creativity is not the ‘frills’ of the development, it is what spurs it. Creativity is an economic necessity. 

In Kenya (and many other countries) children have traditionally been taught by rote and discouraged to venture ‘outside the box’. Art practices - essential to creativity learning - has been limited or even absent in schools. Creativity has been misunderstood and undervalued. There is a misconception that creativity is ‘the arts’ and ‘for artists’ alone, that it cannot be taught, and that it does not impact prosperity and productivity in the same way as literacy and numeracy. The traditional education disconnects children from the skills needed to function in today’s world. Neglecting creativity inhibits children’s development and performance throughout their lives. “Survival in the 21st century will be difficult and without creativity it is not possible” warned the leading Kenyan industrialist Dr Manu Chandaria CBE at the 2015 MASK Prize Awards.  

The Kenyan government has taken critical steps to meet the new challenges. In 2017, “creativity” became a “core competence” of the Kenyan basic education curriculum. But, fostering creativity is not the responsibility of educators alone. 

“By 2020, creativity will be the top skill required by employers,” predicts the WEF’s ‘Future of Jobs’ report. Businesses, therefore, must also invest in creativity of the new generation, the future consumers and workforce. Companies must make the education for creativity a priority of their corporate social responsibility. 

If you are a business leader who wishes to invest in the future of Kenya, support the MASK Prize. Contact [email protected]



Alla Tkachuk is the founder of the Kenyan creative thinking school MASK, [email protected]

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