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28 September 2021

Kenya I People, Culture and the Creative Scene



Akiyni E. Odongo, the Creative Director of Akinyi Odongo KENYA™ and Chairperson of the Kenya Fashion Council (KFCO), presented the people, culture and creative industries in Kenya. The lecture was transcribed.
Presentation by Akinyi E. Odongo



Kenya is considered a culturally diverse nation made up of different tribal groups, each with distinct languages, dress, music, and food. Some of the better known tribes include the coastal Swahili people and Maasai warriors in the wildlife rich grasslands.


Just like most of the African countries Kenya has mostly been recognized for its fashion and fabric scene when it comes to the design world, aside from being famed for its scenic landscape. I mean, people know us for safari, and the big five and all that. And it holds some of the finest beaches in Africa, such as Mombasa historic center, that has contributed much to the musical and culinary heritage in the country. Kenya has also a lot more to offer in terms of opportunities. Kenya has, for instance, surpassed many other countries, simply because of its people and that its rich cultural diversity is considered as “ignite humanity”.


Kenyan people are multi-faced and friendly. They offer an array of languages from each tribal group, customs and music. There are also artistic scenes from individualism, offering a vast diverse option for traveling in the country. By nature, even though with 42 different tribes and languages, Kenyans are friendly and manage the community with the soul of the entire country. So, in our country this is where inasmuch we have different tribal groups, sometimes they just get and converge and we believe in the spirit of “Umoja”, togetherness, you're always supporting each other.


Kenya has been more than recognized for making headlines because of travel, talent and technology areas. In technology, we are very much ahead, one of the African countries that is very much ahead. It has also been recognized for sports. I'm very sure all of us are aware about the Kenyan people and our running and sports culture.


Creative scene, design and construction

New investments and projects to help create more sustainability businesses in Kenya come up ready to help the youths in Kenya, business plans and ideas to pitch their proposal and compensate in prizes.


In the Kenyan creative scene and design, especially in construction, the majority of the creative youth is self-taught. This shows that in Kenya, we have a very rich culture of creativity. You'll find that 70 percent of the creatives didn't go to school, the most of them are self-taught. This is supported by the fact that 68 percent of the current relative youth express a desire to pursue further skills through this establishment. This proves a creative gap in the creative education. The self-taught nature of youth also indicates passion and proactivity in acquiring required skills.


Creative youths are lacking many management skills, such as ad management, marketing skills, which clearly need to be addressed, and ways are being established in which they can acquire such skills. And I want to believe that this particular program will be able to nurture the talents, that they’ll be able to gain a lot by exchanging their culture and exchanging the ideas. They'll be able to learn and just get some of the skills that they need.


Kenya is also unique in such a way as the graffiti scene on “matatus” and public buses where artists get to express themselves. “Matatus”, these are public transports in Kenya and commonly used by Kenyans. And this is a form of art that's an amazing growing culture and it's contributing to the GDP (Gross domestic product) of this country. So, the “matatus” are a useful public transport. You'll be able to see how they use graffiti to just decorate some of these places.


In addition, galleries are continuously coming up in spaces where artists are able to meet up, exhibit and sell their work to the willing public. This is also something that is coming up in Kenya, and it will be a great opportunity to share the experiences after this program. It gives exposure to most artists. Such galleries include the “Cycle Art Gallery”, which gives artists a chance to showcase their work and sell them to the interested viewers.


We have “The Nest Collective”, which is a multi-disciplinary art collective, living and working in Nairobi, Kenya, which was founded in 2012. It creates work for film, music and visual arts. Through them, “The International Inventories Program” (IIP) began in 2018, which in the support of Goethe-Institute, is an artistic research curator project that investigates Kenyan objects held in cultural institutes outside Kenya.


They also try and bring together the cultural articles, including the National Museum of Kenya, which is in Nairobi. We work with other museums across the world. And I think this is a great opportunity for those who own this program to check, how we'd also want to follow through some of the cultural objects that maybe were taken from our country. Because Kenyans were dispossessed of objects of cultural and national importance during colonial period. I think these are some of the things that even the government of Kenya is looking into, that we are able to have some of our pieces back. So, there's a lot of culture in our country that needs to be exchanged and considered.



Technology is another area for exploration. Digital tools, acquisition and distribution has reduced the cost of production and access to customers. This is because creative intermediaries and gatekeepers have been bypassed, creating opportunities for creatives to access millions of customers and make direct sales. Technology in Kenya has really grown. In our country I would say almost 90 percent of the citizens have got mobile phones. And through the mobile phones there's mobile banking and we have a lot of online marketing right now.


So, our digital print in Kenya is quite informative. Things like local videos, local films and music is something that we are really looking into. And we are now at a place where the government is looking into having things procured locally, youths and women are being given opportunities to concentrate on maybe tendering and being given opportunities.


Kenya has been named one of the top hubs of Sub-Saharan Africa, nicknamed after “Silicon Savannah”. In this regard, the second-best innovation hub in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is mainly because of the success of crisis mapping tool, “Ushahidi”, mobile money service “M-PESA”, and the tech incubator “iHub”. So, these are some of the successful stories that we have had in Kenya.


If we look at the architectural art in Kenya, most of it is now changing. Most of the hotels, even in the interior places or going to the villages, are using more of their olden designs. We can have the mud houses, but then they've still put in a lot of technology inside. It's both modern and, I'd say contemporary. So, in general, just to conclude in regard to technology and research, there is also a study conducted by the “International Development Research Center” in partnership with “Oxford Insights”, that Kenya is well equipped to utilize artificial intelligence technology solutions.


Kenya employs some of the AI technology, including sexual reproductive health monitoring, chatbots, while 78 percent of Kenya's largest corporation have integrated modern IT solution into business operations, only 20 to 40 percent of the nation's smaller scale businesses have done so. Kenya's early success in the tech enterprises encouraged the government to double down its support in new industry. The National Internet Communication Technology Board has worked with “iHubs” in multiple projects. The government also instituted “Vision 2030”, a strategy to construct the infrastructure backbone necessary for further IT development, putting plans underway to design and build a new city meant to serve as a national tech hub.


Although still in its early stages, Kenya's emerging technology sector has quickly grown into a lucrative slice of the national economic pie. These facts about technology in Kenya show that the country is innovative and has made great progress in improving the availability of technology to its citizens.


We would like to thank Akinyi E. Odongo for her presentation!

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