Article by Ogova Ondego
Published May 21, 2008
There can be no exaggeration in stating that Kenya is one of the most difficult countries to work in as a
cultural and creative practitioner. In this capitalistic state which has overturned the biblical wisdom that it is
more blessed to give than receive, it is more common to pay Sh1 million (about US16000) for a plate of food
to support the re-election of Mwai Kibaki as president than to pay Sh300 (US$5) to watch a play at the Kenya
It is also easier here to contribute Sh10000 (US$167) to the campaign kitty of a politician
like Raila Odinga or Kalonzo Musyoka who probably have more money than they need than give Sh2000
(US$34) to ArtMatters.Info that, out of an individual’s passion, is documenting, highlighting and promoting
creativity in eastern Africa for posterity. Again, it is more common here to hang out with Warembo na Kibaki
(The Beautiful Ones with Kibaki or Beauty and Kibaki) for a Sh5000 (US$84) fee than be seen at a free Kwani?
In Kenya, OGOVA ONDEGO contends, culture is synonymous with traditional dances performed by children and
women for politicians and tourists.
It was out of this scenario that players in the arts and culture sector in Kenya met with Africalia, a
non-governmental Belgian organisation in Nairobi for a two-day brainstorming seminar “to get a clearer picture
of the cultural situation” and “develop an understanding of the needs and priorities of the cultural a field of
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Africalia, that has over the years supported artistic and cultural programmes in 15 African nations, “is
reviewing its modalities of co-operation with cultural operators in Africa in order to develop more structural
partnerships in the near future.”
Besides taking a general analysis of the cultural and artistic sector in Nairobi by Frédéric Jacquemin guided by
an outline of the conclusions which came out of the discussions of Africalia with the cultural partners and
actors after visits in the field, Africalia financial coordinator Sven Molet took the gathering through financial
preparation and reporting. The seminar concluded with public presentation of the outcomes of the thematic
What came out clearly was that for the arts to thrive, an enabling environment, guided by proper policy
guidelines and regulations ought to be put in place.
Meanwhile the Rahmtullah Museum of Modern Art (RaMoMA), that relocated from Rahmtullah Tower on Upper
Hill Road to a residential compound on 2nd Parklands Avenue in Nairobi, has diversified its arts programme.
With ample space in its two-storey building bought and transformed by the Valdor Trust who donated it to it,
RaMoMA can no longer lament about shortage of space. In fact, this museum of modern art now has six
galleries, a sculpture garden, a gift shop, a cafe, an amphitheatre, and ample parking space. Besides housing
the Pamoja Dance Company, RamoMA is now training children and adults in the making of art.
The organisation has released its initial schedule of workshops for June and July 2008 and is asking interested
parties to enroll for training in areas such as Clay and Mosaic Sculpture, Drawing in depth, multi media
Painting in Acrylic, Painting pottery, Painting with acrylic on canvas, Drawing on T-shirts, Still life drawing, and
Paper Mache jewelry.
However, participants are expected to pay for the training.