Kenya has been on the verge of a creative boom over the past few years. This is evidenced by the many accolades the creative industry has been receiving over the past years. When it comes to film, Kenya has been showing a more out-of-the-box approach in terms of their production quality and the stories covered.
Nairobi Half Life is by far one of the most wildly successful films to have been locally produced in Kenya. Aside from being a continental sensation and being highly acclaimed by the many awards it received at some of Africa’s biggest film award shows, it managed to garner international recognition from the Oscar Academy by receiving a nomination in the international film category at the 85th Award show; a first for Kenya.
The film revolves around the many facets that surround survival in Nairobi. The movie brought into context the harsh realities of life in the city by exploring the underground network of criminals in the city by bringing to us their stories and circumstances. The film received much love and appreciation from diverse audiences because the story presented is one that many people could almost seem to relate to, not from a place of having directly been in the same situation as the actors but from the bare truth the film presented. The film found a way to tap into a topic that many would rather ignore and live in constant ignorance and oblivious to the reason behind society but also to help the audiences to look at themselves introspectively and show them the humanity that exists especially in those shunned by society as being evil. The director, David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga managed to find a gap that existed in society and built a bridge so as to allow for both sides of society to truly see each other’s stories.
This way of storytelling showing real people in real situations is a direction that has been a long time coming for the Kenyan film industry. Bringing audiences stories relevant to their demography is something that has definitely been lacking in the Kenyan Film industry for quite some time due to the heavy influence of Western Media. Nairobi Half Life is a film that dared to attempt to fill the void created by the creativity drain in the local industry not only in Kenya but Africa.
As a result of the sudden opening of a long-abandoned creative door in the Kenyan film industry achieved by the film Nairobi Half Life, creators became more courageous in being more diverse in their productions and coming up with out of the box content for their films. The bar of creativity was since raised with more creators choosing to feature topics that were not traditional in the sense of not sticking to a specific route.
Katikati is a film that can be attested to have been a product of the film revolution. For this particular film, the director, Mbithi Masya took a creative direction that is nothing like anything we have had in the Kenyan film industry. It revolves around the concept of souls in limbo. It explores the dynamic of the afterlife the fate of souls. The idea was something very new because it steps out of the norm and focuses on a subject that surrounds us as human beings that is Death but looks at it from a different point of view.
Such creativity in film production inspires not only in the sense of quality production but also in the sense of aesthetic. By exploring a subject that is very different from the norm, it opens discussions about more topics that can be delved into as well as challenges the creative direction of any future films.
Madaraka is a documentary that focuses on the creative industry in Kenya. The project is geared towards showcasing, discovering and developing talent in the fast-growing creative market in Kenya. It looks at industry players and their achievements as well as introspectively looks at the talent that exists in the country. It highlights the difficulties that the creative industry presents and focusses on grooming young talent on their way up.
The documentary gives an in-depth view of the creative industry in the country by giving audiences a glimpse of the diversity that Kenya and its youth have to offer. It looks at the Kenyan youth and highlights their concerns and the struggles they face in the Kenyan creative industry. Being a developing nation, Kenya has miles to go in terms of growing its creative space on a legislative level. With this documentary, audiences will be able to truly see the work that goes behind the creation of productions in the country from film to music to art.
The project has the contribution of major Kenyan industry players such as members of one of the top African bands and the pride of Kenya in the music industry. Their passion for Kenya and the creative industry is something that they have been very open about and worked hard towards promoting internationally.
Such productions represent the dawn of a new era in the Kenyan film industry because it marks a turn in the creativity seen in films. It shows a generation of creatives who refuse to accept the norm and playing it safe but rather chose to look for new ways to tell their story. It captures the spirit of the new Africa that is not afraid of challenging its limits.
These are stories that are finally being told by Africans and for Africans.
My name is Wilson, I work at Madora and I am a trained make-up artist and skin care consultant and above all I am a professional beauty advisor. I work with Madora and this is a French brand which came to Kenya and launched here at the beginning of 2016. It deals with make-up, skin care and fragrances. I see Madora as a little bit of France in Kenya.
I am a creative person and I love to write.
People in your field that you admire?
I don’t say that I admire anyone, for me I am inspired by people. I look up to Chanel trainers because of their willingness to impart knowledge and their skills.
Being a man in a woman’s world is an opportunity from God. Sometimes it’s an overwhelming feeling. When I was at college 99% of pupils were women the rest were men with earrings and bangles. This was intimidating and this experience left me confused. I told myself I am going to be different.
Locally I have not found someone who inspires me as I said from the onset I was going to be different, and do things differently. Be my own person.
Tell me about something you’ve created.
As a creative make-up artist, when we were doing Sense 8, I was part of the special effects make-up artists’ tea, and this was a very unique opportunity and cemented me for what I was doing and I knew this was for me. I was in the right place.
How do you keep up with industry trends?
I read a lot of. If you look at my emails right now I receive almost 15 -20 updates on the beauty industry. This is how I keep my dream alive. 99% of what I follow are the make-up brands themselves. My sources for beauty is everywhere. I want beauty to be accessible for all. I’ve also benefitted from trainings from being a part of Madora and this is what has helped me keep up with international beauty trends.
What is the biggest creative challenge you have faced in your career?
I am a very emotional person, and I get hurt easily. I have witnessed a lot of intimidation in this industry, more so being a man. Not everyone believes you can be a good make-up artist being a man.
What are some of the projects you’re working on right now?
I am full time with Madora.
How do you respond to criticism?
No one likes criticism.
I would start to complain, and now I have started to sit and reflect. Especially if its constructive criticism. But first I have to differentiate between a good and bad critic. Some people just want to be negative for the sake of throwing shade at you and try and bring you down.
What makes you unique?
For me, it’s my signature; to be simple. Simplicity is in everything I do. As a make-up artist I am one person who believes in natural make up. I like to keep it natural unless at the client requests differently. I don’t want when you take off your make up you look different person. Being natural is key and this is what makes me a little different from the rest I don’t’ like extremes.
What would you say to youth who want to be in your industry?
This is the right time. If you have the passion and the drive this is the time. The world is coming to Africa, to Kenya now. The cosmetic industry is going to be the largest soon. We need more artists from Kenya to come into the industry. Even if I had children and this was their dream I would encourage them.
“What is it that you do?” Brain Babu has heard that question one too many times before. In a society that fails to validate the creative industry as an economic sector, Brian is making his strides as a stylist. Creating identities and bring the glitz and glam to the red carpet, stylist to the stars, he is living his passion. Called the brains behind Sauti Sol’s polished and super stylish looks. Brian describes himself as a free thinker and lover of life. So ow did the financier step into the world of fashion? A favor for his sister, a favor that led his name to being attached to prestigious awards, Kenya Fashion Awards’s Stylist of the Year 2016, Abryanz Style & Fashion Awards 2016 East Africa Stylist of The Year, and nominee of Abrayanz Style and Fashion Awards 2017.
Be Afrika picked Brian Babu as our Mentor this month because of the lesson he teaches about being faithful to your passion. Here is what we asked him, from you the aspiring stylist to Brian Babu our mentor of the month.
How do you spend most of your time?
In between work, I love to travel and be with my family.
What do you wish you knew in your early twenties?
I wish I understood how money works, how to save and how to manage my money.
How can I work smarter?
Any aspiring stylist needs to identify what market works for you. What type of styling, is it personal styling, personality styling or is it styling for television. You need to find your niche and then improve and perfect what you do.
Is this where you thought you would end up?
I had not planned to be a stylist. It is something I had done individually for a while and then I started doing it as a profession when I was in campus. I don’t remember what I would have been before I found my passion in styling. I was school for economics and finance and I probably would have gotten an office job, probably work in a bank or a finance institute.
If you could do it all again, what would you do differently?
I wouldn’t have gone to economics and finance school in the first place. I think I would have gone straight to fashion and design school.
What used to be your biggest weaknesses?
Time. As a creative at times you end up doing things last minute. Or maybe the ideas come up last minute so you are pressed for time to execute what you wanted to do.
What are you most proud of?
The things I have been able to accomplish in the first four years. And the consistency of my work throughout that period.
“Am I being crazy?” Have you ever asked yourself that? What was the result?
Of course I did. At some point I quit school my family also thought I had lost my mind, so I thought I was actually crazy. But you know only crazy people dream.
What were your biggest failures?
I know there are projects that I have been able to do but they didn’t take off the way they were supposed to. Probably because I wasn’t keen enough or I hadn’t grown enough as a stylist to be able to handle such big projects. I think of those as failures and I got to learn from them, and I became a better stylist through that. There are project that you’d be given to handle and then you think you have the capacity to do that project but you actually don’t.
A piece of advice.
GO HARD OR GO HOME! You can’t be half assing things, taking issues with a pinch of salt. You just have to do the most when you want to do something. Go completely out of your way to do your best.
“There is no definitive answer, I experienced a lot but one emotion that resonates is thankfulness / gratitude. I found humanity, ‘ubuntu’, people’s kindness when meeting a stranger. I found the African hustle, the entrepreneurial spirit on the streets of Kampala, Aswan and Nairobi. People pushing by all means necessary to make it happen. One of the most important lessons I learnt, is that you will find what you are looking for when you are traveling. It might not be in the way , shape or form that you expect it, but it was deeply satisfying to be on this trip.” ~Alick Chingapi
Get to Know our Nomad:
Where are you from?
I was born in Zimbabwe to Malawian parents, so I identify as both.
Where have you been?
Egypt, Ghana, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Malawi, South Africa, Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia and Democratic Republic of Congo.
What’s been your favorite place?
I will be biased towards Kenya cause of the vibrancy and having friends who are as good as family. However, Uganda struck a chord with me. The streets of Kampala, the markets, the helpfulness of the people all resonated with me. I enjoyed my time on one of the islands on Lake Bunyonyi in the South of Uganda, it was serenely peaceful.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
I found myself heading to a refugee camp in Rwanda. I intended to volunteer only to get a rude awakening when I arrived at the camp, when the authorities told me that I needed clearance to be able to volunteer. I don’t know why I had thought I would be able to arrive at a refugee camp and help out. It was an intense couple of hours with my passport circulating different hands, bag searched thoroughly, every photo in my camera examined. I realized the gravity of my situation as I was being questioned by a third individual and it sounded like I was a spy.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever eaten?
Don’t really have, I have eaten a lot of food that in some people’s cultures are crazy. I eat amacimbi (mopane worms), mbeva (a form of field mouse) and some people think that it is crazy.
How long had you been traveling for on your last trip?
I traveled for nearly 5 months before I returned home
How much longer will you be traveling for?
I intend to get back to traveling soon across West Africa once I have my planned out my next trip and hopefully attained sponsorships.
What were you doing before you left on your last trip?
I used to work at a consulting firm as a lead consultant, managing teams on projects in client environments.
Did you ever miss home?
Initially, I missed the familiarity of home comforts such as my bed but after a while, it is a memory of something I can look forward to and appreciate a bit more
We all want to travel around the world, but few of us are brave enough to do. In his book, Through A Black Iris, Alick Chingapi brings us along his journey across Africa. Get your copy here!
USA-based Kenyan songstress, Mumbi, is back to Kenya and launched her debut EP “For The Culture” – 30th of April 2018 from East Africa, in a worldwide release. Known for her diverse sound that blends afro-house, soul, R&B and hip hop, Mumbi is set for her biggest career move that has now birthed the 5– track EP featuring the singles: “Yours”, “Intro”, “Soweto”, “Good Enough” and “Too Much”.
Speaking to her Kenyan fans, Mumbi says: “At this point my fans and I are technically dating. My music is my diary. So if you love my music we’re pretty much together. Can’t wait to see you all!” Speaking on “For The Culture” EP and her return to Kenya, Mumbi says: “I chose to launch the EP in Kenya because everything begins at home. Kenya is my home and what better way to launch something than at home first. I wrote most of the songs on the EP at a time in my life where I had taken some time off to regroup,” hinting on her future plans: “I plan on moving back to home and definitely working on a new album from Kenya.”
Even before the EP was ready for release, Mumbi was concurrently working on her debut album, which is expected to be ready by September 2018. While in Kenya, she intends to collaborate with top Kenyan acts including Khaligraph Jones, Steph Kapela, Xtatic and Camp Mulla. Her passion is to continue raising her profile and that of Kenya. She says, “As a brand, I will continue to represent Kenya on a bigger platform. I would like to introduce the world to all the amazing talent we have in Kenya because we are really underrated. I am happy to strongly represent of our beautiful country, musically speaking.”
People in your field that you admire? Lauryn hill Miriam makeba
How do you incorporate creativity in your free time?
I usually just listen to a lot of different types of music to keep my mind fresh when it comes to creativity
What is your perspective on the music industry?
Right now is the best time in the music industry in Kenya because we are on the peak of change
Do you think there are enough youth opportunities?
No but all it does is make us grind harder
What is your creative process like when you are working?
I usually write a song beforehand create a bass line then go to the producer with it and we build around that
Tell me about something you’ve created.
My whole ep 😊
How do you keep up with industry trends?
I don’t. I just choose to be me that way there’s no pressure. It can be challenging for a young Kenyan to balance local identity with international influence. How do you think we can best keep and promote the Kenyan brand?
How did your family react to your career choice?
At first it was hard but now it’s gotten a lot better
Tell us about your new Music?
Each song on my FOR THE CULTURE Ep is my favorite song. Expect the unexpected and lots of amazing vibes.
Which track best represents you?
Definitely Good Enough
What’s next for you?
Any advice for the youth?
Be you. That is your power. Also, don’t be afraid of the struggle
it’s only for a season. Put In work and you WILL succeed
The Creative Blog, took stock of the current graphic design trends by asking some of the leading designers and studio head to identify the biggest movements of 201 and what they think will be in trend this year.
The ‘Little Big Idea’
2017 design theme was big impact with simple ideas, executed with intelligence and insight to create real, radical impact. It’s predicted that in 2018, elegant logic will be the only way to cut through, if it is as chaotic, channel-hopping and crazy as 2017 was.
2017 can be categorised as a year of colour, with graphic designers making big and bold choices. In an effort to inspire positivity, there has been an influx of bright colours, often with flat graphics and only one or two colours used at any one time. This trend is predicted to hold strong this year, as bright colours help content to stand out from the meme-filled social media.
Hyper brand distillation
Throughout 2017, design has been getting simpler and yet richer. In a world where user experience is king, complex brand systems get in the way of the content. Function overrides superfluous design details, and every brand asset needs to earn its place. So brands are striving to streamline their core assets, but looking to pack more meaning and distinctiveness into each element. This often starts with the name.
Flat Graphics in Packaging
Packaging design has made a move towards simplicity in 2017. Simplicity through the use of flat graphics can be seen across all packaging categories. This does not necessarily mean minimalism but instead a stripping back of layers, detailing, text and tone to hone in on the core information and graphics. These are then treated in a simple, deconstructed manner. Featuring just the core information and intriguing illustrations, the contrast of its simplicity with the complexity of its competitors’ designs has ensured both distinctiveness and standout.
3D Modelling in Typography
3D modelling is the new frontier of graphic design. This has especially been seen in type design, but also in pattern generation. A potential future trend, One-colour 3D design is growing in popularity. There has been more and more product marketing that uses the same bold background colour as the featured product itself: the product leaps off the screen thanks to the volume created by the 3D techniques.
Hand-drawn Elements Continue
Hand-drawn images have been particularly big in 2017, and the rise of black and white lettering is not surprising. The personal touch that they provide to branding and marketing is undeniable. In a world ever-more dominated by screens, there is just something appealing about the hand-drawn that resonates with many. There is a movement away from the very technical and a return to an artisan approach, which is seen across everything. There has also been a move away from polished photography to more gritty, real-world photographs. This may all stems from the Millennial generation looking for design that has a bit more integrity, and the manifestation of physical art in graphic design has really struck a chord.
I am a singer/songwriter and YouTuber born and raised here in Kenya. I am an absolute travel and food enthusiast and an incredibly family orientated individual. I will try everything once and love a challenge. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that my big loves in this world are; family, friends (building relationships) music, dancing, travel, cheese and wine! I love the outdoors and especially enjoy pushing myself out of my comfort zone to see what I can achieve…in a nutshell
People in your field that you admire?
Locally the musicians I admire are Tetu Shani, Yellow Light Machine and Sauti Sol. I love Tetu especially because to me he isn’t just a great singer and musician but a storyteller. It is incredibly hard to write good songs and take people on a journey through lyrics and performance, but he does this effortlessly.
What is your perspective on the creative industry?
The creative industry has grown leaps and bounds in the last few years. Away with the traditional and conservative ways of doing things and onto exploration and innovation.
Do you think the government supports the creative industry?
I don’t think the government supports creativity the way they should. If they could only realize the creative potential we have in this Country, creativity and especially the music industry would be a higher priority. Our youth are bursting with talent and ideas and unfortunately we don’t have enough resources to nurture and give them enough air to breathe life into these opportunities. They need the knowledge and guidance, companies to organize platforms for learning and experimentation.
What is your creative process like when you are working?
My creative process when trying to write a song actually starts where most good music starts… in the shower. Somehow it is where most melodies or ideas of lyrics begin. I’ll come up with something, jump out to record it on my phone and then I’ll sit down and try write something from those beginning ideas. Once the lyrics are down then I try matching it up with a feel and a melody. Strangely though my mind works more visually than anything else. The idea sets in motion visuals and I’ll see an idea of a story and video and then write lyrics and a melody to match it.
5.It can be challenging for a young Kenyan to balance local identity with international influence. How do you think we can best keep and promote the Kenyan brand?
I feel we need an entire article to go through this subject. The challenges of being an artist are similar across the international board. Artists struggle financially because not a big enough importance is put on what we do. Unless you are one of the biggest performing artists in your Country, you don’t make enough from live performances and you definitely can’t make enough through downloads and now everybody streams so you need to keep up with the trends and keep up the marketing to make a decent living. Secondly we don’t have enough platforms here in Kenya to educate artists on copyright laws, distribution services and how to make your music a business. Thirdly I feel we don’t support each other enough and our media doesn’t support their artists enough. We should be predominantly playing out local artists’ music as they do in Nigeria. As well as give younger upcoming artists a leg up at any opportunity. This is the only way we can build the industry and show the world what we have got.
I have battled with this myself. Having an ‘international’ sound but trying to ‘bring it home’ and package it for the local market isn’t easy. It’s difficult to form our own identity when most of the music we have grown up with and listening to through our media airwaves has an international influence. Mostly from the US or Nigeria. I definitely feel that we have a distinct style here in Kenya and the best way to promote it is to keep churning it out, to merge our sounds with international influences and push hard to get exposure internationally. We need to create a Kenyan identity through music.
What are the benefits of collaborating?
As you may know, I am BIG on collaborations and there are business and personal reasons why I choose to collaborate so much. Firstly, we are always progressing and can always learn more. With every new artist you work with you learn more about particular genres, industry trends and tricks of the trade in different countries. A bounty of new knowledge awaits you.
Any advice to youth interested in the industry?
From a business perspective, lets parallel collaboration to the idea of ‘twitter’. With each new collaboration you are increasing your spider web of networks and fan base. You get in front of different audiences and you never know how far your collaborator will go in the industry. It is also incredibly humbling and challenging as you see how incredible other artist are and so you strive to be better in your field yourself.
Umoja Art Gallery is one of the major art hubs in Uganda. The main objective of this gallery is to enable national and international visitors to revive Uganda’s cultural heritage and to become enamored with multi-centralism, so as to stimulate potential in the artists living in Uganda, to encourage the exchange of artists work through exhibitions and finally to foster the development of art in Uganda.
Uganda has a vibrant music industry that plays a fundamental role in the social and economic lives of many. Uganda, is now ranked number three in Africa as far as music and entertainment is concerned. Uganda is home to over 65 different ethnic groups and tribes, and they form the basis of all indigenous music. The Baganda, being the most prominent tribe in the country, have dominated the culture and music of Uganda over the last two centuries. The first form of popular music to arise out of traditional music was the Kadongo Kamu style of music, which arose out of traditional Ganda music.
Street Art Festival
The first ever AFRI-CANS Street Art & Graffiti Festival took place on the weekend of 25th Nov on the streets of Kampala in Uganda. Afri-cans festival is focused on celebrating, spreading, uplifting the street art /graffiti culture and creating beautiful spaces. It was hosted by Sparrow from Monk256 Crew, the event will showcase a number of local and international urban artists.
Cinema in Uganda
Uganda is often overlooked as a production hub but the country can offer a great deal to international producers. The emerging film industry in Uganda is known as Ugawood or sometimes Kinauganda by the locals. The 2005 production Feelings Struggle directed by Ashraf Ssemwogerere is credited with being the first Ugawood film. Many have asserted that this steadily growing film industry is derived from Hollywood, in the same manner as Nollywood and Bollywood. The country has played hosts for films such as The Last King of Scotland in 2006, African Queen in 1951 & Queen of Katwe in 2016.
I always knew I wanted to be an actress from a very early age, but I didn’t get to act in my first film until 2013. It was a short film called The Lucky One, in remembrance of the Westgate mall attack.
What difference do you see in yourself from the film time you were on a set to now?
Being on set and taking on a new character has a peculiar way of opening you up and teaching you things about yourself you didn’t know existed. I think that is always the difference for me. When I leave a set I find that I usually have discovered more to me and my nature.
What is your creative process?
I am an emotional person and I believe that if I can feel it, I can express it. So my creative process heavily involves getting in touch with myself and my feelings. When I do that I am then able to write about what is on my mind, and what it is that I really want to convey to the world. This applies to both my writing and my acting. When I get a new character, I like to know what moves them, what is important to them, their perspective on life and how they would react to different situations. This always helps me with getting into my character and taking the character’s life and making it mine. It is one of my favorite things about acting.
What has been your greatest challenge?
My biggest challenge has been constantly believing in my craft. Self-doubt is rampant among creatives, especially when you feel that the work you are putting in isn’t getting seen enough or isn’t good enough. I am learning to trust in my abilities even when there is no one around to affirm it. I have also learnt to keep creating, even when it doesn’t feel good enough, create. That is how we grow in our craft, by doing the thing that needs to get done.
Do you feel like the Kenyan Entertainment Industry is one to sustain a career?
A few years back I might have given a different answer, but in this day and age, I am wildly optimistic that it can be done. With the advent of social media, I feel that if you work smart, you can salvage a lot from your career as a Kenyan entertainer. We are at a point where corporate brands, both local and international, are increasingly looking for artists and personal brands to work with. I think how you market and build your brand as an entertainer in Kenya determines how well you are able to monetize it and make a sustainable career for yourself. But just like any business, you will need a game plan. And that’s where a lot of artists miss out.
What would make the Kenyan industry unique? How do we create our own brand and identity?
Simple, by telling our own stories, in their true authentic form. This is especially a task for the writers and directors. Let us write films that celebrate our uniqueness as Kenyans, let us incorporate the diversity of our culture, our languages, our interactions with each other. They don’t all have to be rosy stories either. We face a lot of hardships as Kenyans too, let us put that in our art. Your story should at least have a reflection of our political climate; what are the strengths and struggles unique to our women, how does society treat our men, who are our legends, who are our gods, our myths? Let us show off our landscape more, Kenya is a beautiful country and there are so many stories we are yet to tell.
What makes you unique?
I would say being the daughter of a reformed bank robber and a former nun gives me quite a unique perspective on the world. My uniqueness is in how I perceive the world and its workings.
Africa has over quite some time been the front-runner in becoming a fast-emerging fashion powerhouse in the world. The continent has found a way of expressing itself through fashion by finding its own unique voice in the ever-growing, ever-evolving fashion world. In the midst of all the different emerging styles, there have been individuals who rather than go with the tide have gone ahead to forge their own path and define their own individuality through their own unique style that has gone ahead to be recognised on an international level.
STYLE CURATOR, OLIVER ASIKE
One half of the famous fashion duo of the 2manysibings blog, Oliver Asike, a streetstlye star is a man many in fashion verse would rather find to be very enviable. His unique style which consists of vintage inspiration is one that has even gone ahead to garner international recognition from the fashion magazine powerhouse that is Vogue where a feature article was done on the amazing phenomena that is 2manysiblings.
His style roots can be traced back to the local Kenyan thrift scene that has rather quite evolved over the years. The thrift scene which mostly consists of second-hand clothing from local vendors is one of the most widespread fashion practices in the country whereby together with incorporating various pieces that may be from the local fashion textile industry as well; Ankara and Denim wear, the fashion-conscious Kenyan youth find a way to customize their own style.
For Oliver, he could be seen as being more of a fashion curator rather than simply just a fashion enthusiast or termed as fashion-conscious. Instead of just putting pieces that may seem to right together or trying to come up with trendy looks from the pieces he has, he rather takes it a step further by turning his fashion into something more of art by capturing the very essence that is the Kenyan spirit as well as his own unique vintage feel. Oliver is someone who finds a way of bringing vintage into the modern fashion scene and making it to be something close to inspiring art.
Being the curator he is, he has together with his sister under the 2manysiblings franchise helped to inspire the creative spirit in the Kenyan Fashion scene by creating spaces that allow people to explore the fashion creativity through the annual ‘Thrift Social’ event. The event can be seen as being more of a space where fashion and art creatives come together to share ideas and feel free to explore more diverse and unique ways to express themselves through their fashion by turning it into an art form.
KENYA TO THE WORLD, ZEDDIE LUKOYE
Coming from the humble roots of printing and hawking Rugby T-shirts to running a denim business from a small house in Kinoo and moving on to gracing New York fashion week runways with his designs and now coming back home to establish his bespoke men suits clothing line Narok NYC, Zeddie is a man whose story is one of endurance and that of determination to always do better.
Zeddie is one who is well-versed in the business of high-end fashion being that he worked as an in-house designer for some of the biggest names in New York fashion such as Alexander Nash. Being that he is not a classically trained tailor, his impeccable work and outstanding resume of clientele and fashion houses he has worked for is quite impressive.
His work from his launch of his fashion line in Kenya mid this year, speaks of a polished designer as the craftsmanship of the pieces were nothing short of art. His label, Narok NYC that is inspired by the Maasai-occupied region shows his transition marked by the wildebeest migration as well as to pay homage to his first New York fashion week runway show that was Maasai-shuka inspired.
His talents being well-recognised and his creativity appreciated, he has gone ahead to garner even more international recognition for his work from renowned American musician Jidenna who is of Nigerian heritage and known for his unique fashion and clean overall bespoke dressing. During his recent visit to Kenya for a performance event, the fashionable pair met and ended with Zeddie being hired by Jidenna as his Kenyan designer for future collaborations and visits to the country.
Zeddie through his fashion line plans to bring high-fashion tailoring into the country and the continent at large by making perfectly tailored and made to fit suits for men to show them fashion s for all. The made to fit pieces also inspire an even more fashion forward thinking and embracing of the same form men who traditionally always end up picking their suits from a line-up of mass produced suits. The personalisation is the main highlight for Zeddie.
For someone like Zeddie, his expression of art is seen through his impeccable craftsmanship that he effortlessly brings out in his designs. It is impossible for one not to see his vision and inspiration through his work as he takes you on a journey from the fabric of the suit, to the lining to every stitch made in the construction of the suit. He tells you a story by bringing out the characters of all these pieces and once all sewn together, brings out the final piece that is the suit.
The spirit of Africa is one that has always been alive is one that is slowly coming of age to realize its true potential by pushing its boundaries through more creative approaches of expression and this can be truly seen from the ever-evolving fashion scene that can be described as having grown into something more of bringing out the art in fashion.
With more and more people joining the creative field, it has allowed for more voices in the African continent to be heard through the expression of different art forms. The many voices that come together truly bring out the voice of the long sleeping giant that is Africa which is a melting pot of pure creativity.
The future of fashion in Africa is not one that we have to anticipate for because the future of African fashion is now and is happening.
African citizens could reap major economic and social benefits if their governments more efficiently develop and promote their cultural activities – music, painting, sculpture, design, literature, publishing, and the performing arts that all make up the “creative sector.” Ripe with opportunity, Africa could promote its own heritage and build a sustainable economy for itself.
There’s evidence showing the economic potential of the sector. Nigeria’s movie industry, Nollywood, now generates millions of dollars. “Graphic Africa,” a showcase exhibition of the work of 16 African designers with ceramics, furniture and textiles illustrating trends in pattern and style, attracted great interest at the Habitat Platform Gallery during the London Design Festival last year. The Design Network Africa, a Danish program to equip African artists with business skills and marketing, is an example of an initiative with great potential.
A 2010 United Nations report on the global creative economy suggests that trade in the creative sector has enjoyed continuous growth even in the recent turbulent economic times. It has increased from $267 billion in 2002 to $592 billion worldwide in 2008. But most of this commerce is realized in developed countries, which accounted for 83 percent of exports in creative services and 56 percent in creative goods. In the U.S. alone, entertainment, literary and artistic activities contributed $74.3 billion to the economy in 2012. Developing countries could tap into this market and benefit from their own cultural production.
Monetary reward however, isn’t the only reason to develop Africa’s cultural sector. Investing in culture can create jobs that bring higher employee satisfaction. Unlike mining for instance, participating in African creativity could mean meaningful employment for the continent’s largest population – its youth. High unemployment rates across the continent are worrisome, could engaging and potentially lucrative jobs fix this?
The creative sector can also promote tourism, social inclusion and national identity, and should be celebrated in their own right. As cultural ambassadors, African artists can positively influence people to invest, study, or visit in Africa. The negative image often associated with African countries translates into poor country “brands” (to speak in business or marketing terms). And weak brands “can have a significant impact on a nation’s attractiveness for investment as well as tourism,” observes FutureBrand, a global brand consultancy that publishes an annual Country Brand Index. Wildlife helps drive tourism in some countries. But the rich variety of African cultural traditions should be equally attractive, and cultural assets like South Africa’s International Library of African Music are viable tourist destinations.
Culture and development are interdependent. That is, they are collaborative, and not mutually exclusive. A balance sheet analysis isn’t enough to formulate development policies, says James D. Wolfensohn, the former World Bank President and a cellist. “If you’re going to make judgments about the people in the country about whether they trust you or not, what you have to do is to identify them in terms of their culture.” Wolfensohn recalled that in Mali, a country no stranger to hardship, the only time he saw people happy and proud was when they were displaying their arts.
Unfortunately, for many leaders, the arts are almost just trinkets. “One of the disappointments to me was that the leadership of many African countries do not themselves support their cultures. And that’s a shame,” says Wolfensohn. “I don’t know whether all the countries have cultural ministers. But if they do, I don’t think they meet together very much to project an African image.”
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the African Union’s vision and policy framework to encourage socio-economic development, acknowledges this: African countries need to “find ways to diversify their economies, namely by boosting non-traditional sectors; expanding their range of products and exports; and engaging with new economic and development partners.”
African countries should go further and implement a cooperative New Partnership for Africa’s Cultural Trade (NEPACT) to promote small-scale creative enterprise. This policy could work under special trade arrangements where, for example, member African nations could come together to negotiate their cultural export provisions with the European Union or with North America. Governments will indeed need to find better ways of protecting intellectual property with copyright; many artists in Africa are now deprived of their rightful earnings by piracy. But it can be done. Creative solutions can help grow the creative sector.
If Africa embraces the idea of making cultural and artistic activities an integral part of economic development and social progress, maybe the Yoruba can someday say, “Wealth that comes from creativity is true wealth.”
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past decade or so, it is quite evident that visual art is the future and as a matter of fact, the future is here. With the attention span of the average human being having reduced significantly over the past few years, visual representation of information through media such as film is at its most beneficial point. With the world taking on film as one of the biggest and most effective way of passing a message across or even spearheading change in society, Africa has not been left behind. In fact, Africa’s film industry is growing sporadically and if we maintain the status quo, we will quickly and most definitely conquer the said industry.
In Africa, Kenya is at the forefront of the film-making culture having recently been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film at the 90th Oscar Awards early 2018, for the short film Watu Wote. The 2017 film, directed by Kenyan-German Katja Benrath is based on a true story that depicts the Al- Shabaab militia bus attack on Muslim and Christian passengers in Mandera in December 2015. The film goes a long way in addressing the consequential unrest that arises in Kenya from the militia group attacks in the country.
This, however, was not Kenya’s first award-winning production to be released on an international platform. In 2016, Kenyan director Mbithi Masya released a drama film, KatiKati, that gained significant acclaim having won the Prize of the International Federation of Film Critics at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. KatiKati follows the life, or in this case the after-life of Kaleche, a lady who finds herself in purgatory assimilated to her by a ghost. Definitely a must-watch!
A little while ago, Nairobi Half-life, one of Kenya’s most recognized films was released and it quickly set the country’s film industry on an international level. The film showcases the life of a young, aspiring actor from an upcountry region with big dreams in his pursuit of success in the big city, Nairobi. Directed by David ‘Tosh’ Gitonga, the film spearheaded the film culture of the country by being one of the most relatable productions to date.
Most recently, the talk of the town has been the film Supa Modo which is a story about a terminally ill girl whose desire to become a superhero amidst her condition inspires the society around her to rally together and make her dreams come true. The film was directed by Likarion Wainaina who has previously produced the popular show Auntie Boss, award-winning Bait and Kidnapped. The film was recently recognized at the Berlin International Film Festival held in February, 2018.
It is clear that we are making great strides in the film-making industry. However, it has not been an easy road. Facing stereotypes such as films requiring a colonial point of view in order to be considered award-worthy has been a challenge especially in the west. Moreover, African films are only considered as crafts and only ever make it to a small-scale level in comparison to productions from Hollywood for example.
Despite all this, the future is bright and with a little more effort and support from the film lovers and audiences, no one can say how much success we gain as Africa.
The East Africa Arts team is excited to be screening the documentary, Lost Warrior as part of the 28th European Film Festival in Nairobi. Over 57 films from 23 countries will be screened in 12 locations across Nairobi featuring master classes, panel discussions, and workshops from the 3rd to the 26th of May.
What made you take the leap into creative entrepreneurship?
Being from Johannesburg, South Africa we noticed a vast number of street artists trying to sell arts and crafts from the side of the road. We were really impressed by their work and stopped to ask a few of the artists some questions. After realizing that most of the guys did this as the only form of income for their families and were only selling a couple of pieces a week, we decided to create our platform to increase their exposure.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
Initially, our main challenges were getting our name out there as well as learning about the technicalities of the art industry. We managed to overcome these challenges through intensive networking via social media and face to face meetings of course. To learn about the industry we have been reading books, doing research online and have luckily been helped by various people we have met along the way. We have come a long way but still have a fortune to learn.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
Our families have been very supportive luckily. There was an element of uncertainty from them, which is probably normal going into any new business but extremely supportive nonetheless.
What was your business’ original mission? How has that mission evolved in the time since?
Our mission was and still is, to provide a platform that helps under resourced and up and coming African artists to gain exposure and create sustainable profits for both the artists and the business. Another part to our mission is connecting the rest of the world to Africa by showcasing the amazing art which Africa has to offer.
Do you prefer to pursue funding or build organically, and why?
A combination of the two is ideal for us. Our business does not need huge amounts of capital and can be built organically which we have done for many months. However funding does help as it allows that building process to be fast-tracked provided the resources are put to good use. For example, additional funding can help with advertising and selling on popular/high volume platforms.
Did you have major competitors when you started, how did you plan to compete with them, and how did that plan play out?
There are major competitors within the online art industry worldwide but the online African art market is growing at a fast rate, giving us an opportunity to enter the market with relative ease. We had a limited selection of art when starting which was difficult to deal with because our competitors had a larger and better range of stock. Our plan was not only to showcase the art on offer but the story of each individual artist we featured. We aim to create a personal connection between the artist and the audience through bios and videos, which has worked in helping us sell.
What do you look for in a business partner?
Daniel and I (Alon), being partners, have certain principles we follow when working with each other. Firstly we are open and honest about all of our views on any decisions we make or have made for the business. Honesty is so important if we are to trust each other and trust is one of, if not the most crucial part of a partnership. Luckily we have been best friends since the age of 5. Another quality we strive to live by is the fact that we agree to never let financial issues come between us. Money is not more valuable than relationships. Money can be made over and over, broken relationships cannot always be mended. Aside from this being a good business partner entails a good work ethic, having an open mind and listening to other opinions and having clearly defined responsibilities.
How do you facilitate a positive work environment that attracts and retains talent?
We are still a new business and haven’t had enough time to give a fully justified answer on this question but there is a certain culture we promote to facilitate a positive environment. We believe that a balance between creative freedom and business structures and systems contribute to this. As well as living by certain values when dealing with stakeholders: respect, honesty, fairness and openness.
How did you build a consumer culture around your product?
Our initial target market was consumers outside of Africa. Besides for our goal of providing a platform for street artists, another goal was to provide non-African art collectors with African art, with just a click of a button. Part of our focus is to provide an easy way for our consumers to buy art, without having to leave their homes. We feel that we capitalized on this gap in the market based on what consumers need and how the world of online shopping is growing.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business’ success?
As said previously we are still a new business so it’s too early for us to answer this question.
What is the biggest mistake you’ve made as an entrepreneur?
Our biggest mistakes were probably in the way we approached getting our online platform up and running. It took a couple of months more than expected and we could have made wiser decisions to speed up the process. But this is all easy to say in hindsight. We did not have the knowledge at that stage so do not have any regrets because we have learned from the mistakes.
What has been your greatest moment of success?
Our greatest moment up to date was our first international sale. To see that our vision was indeed possible was really uplifting. At first it was just a thought that African street artists would have the ability to sell their work online to international customers. When it first happened it made all the hard work worthwhile.
How do you approach marketing your business?
Our approach to marketing is based on our target consumer. Our thought process entails asking ourselves “How do we promote what we are doing to the type of person who will buy from us?”
How do you believe evolving technology will impact the way we do business over the next 10 years?
Business will be faster, globalized further and easily accessible from pretty much anywhere. A lot more people will be working either from home or on the go. Today we are able to have a video conference call from our phones with business people in any other country, worldwide. Imagine what it will be like in 10 years!
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
Not much, because we understand that there will be many things that we don’t know at first and figure out along the way. But if we had to choose something it would probably be the technical knowledge of the art industry that we have now, compared to when we first started. However we still have so much more to learn.
What is the most unpopular opinion you have on entrepreneurship?
There are many negative stigmas and opinions on entrepreneurship. These are mainly just stereo-types and untrue in most cases. Entrepreneurship actually entails being resourceful and having the ability to change and adapt to any situation for the purpose of improvement. In truth, it is crucial for all businesses, business owners and even employees, to be entrepreneurial.
What’s the most important thing you’re working on right now, and how are you making it happen?
We are currently working on physically getting out there more to display our work in person instead of just marketing online. Our initial aim was to focus on selling art online to international buyers but we have realized what a long process that can be. We have now shifted some of our focus to displaying our artwork through pop-up exhibitions at markets and events as well as displaying our art in restaurants and hotels.
Ask how she develops talent, how she helps people grow to the next level and be their best.
Our aim is to develop the under resourced street artists that we work with. The development comes from exposing our artists to other artists’ work, especially the art that is currently selling within the market. We believe that there needs to be a balance in an artist retaining creative freedom but also knowing which of their pieces are not up to standard and will not sell based on the current market.
If you sold your company today, what would be the tone of the conversation? What would you want to gain? What would you want to avoid losing?
If we sold today, the tone of the conversation would not only involve financial details. We would want to sell to a person or business that would have a similar vision to ours and a great chance of implementing that vision. Of course we would want to gain the most amount of money possible through the acquisition but we did not only start this business for ourselves. We would need to be convinced on the well-being of our artists too. Perhaps we would not sell 100%, to ensure we would still be able to be a part of the decision making process.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, we see ourselves travelling between multiple continents with our artists, setting up exhibitions and possibly African art stores around the globe. We hope to have an established platform that provides a programme to help street artists work from studios and galleries instead of a single street corner.
How much capital did you have and when do we expect cash flow break even?
We invested a large portion of our life savings into this business because it is something we truly believe in. We have technically broken even through investment that we have received recently. In terms of breaking even through sales – that should happen by the end of the year, maybe early 2018 if all goes to plan.
What kind of person will succeed in this industry?
A person who is not willing to give up and one who is always willing to learn and adapt to an ever changing industry. Of course it also takes smart financial decisions and hard work.
How do you keep up with the changing trends of the industry?
By keeping an open mind, through continuous research and development and experimentation. It also helps to have a network of clued up individuals within the industry.
What are some strategies that you would recommend for making the best use of one’s time?
Planning is of course important. Setting goals and objectives and planning how to achieve them saves a great deal of time.
Prioritizing your tasks then moving on or sidelining the tasks that are not important and do not deserve wasted time
Waking up early – So simple but easier said than done. Keep your body and mind healthy through exercise and sleeping well, then wake up early to give yourself an extra couple of working hours.