Kenyan artists face tough market
Like elsewhere in the region, contemporary art in Kenya is facing challenges. Art education in schools is lacking, and the art market, dominated by tourists and expatriates, tends to stifle experimentation.
At the Kuona Trust, a visual arts center in a Nairobi suburb, artists work out of converted shipping containers.
Kuona’s mission is to provide opportunities for its artists to produce world-class art in Kenya.
“Selling is a really big problem for artists here,” noted Slyvia Gichia, the director of the Kuona Trust. “We don’t have a very informed audience in the local scene, unless we’re talking about expats or we’re talking about tourists coming, so what tends to happen is a lot of artists start to create work for the tourist market, versus just contemporary art.”
Kuona is encouraging experimentation. Its gallery currently features the conceptual work of Maryann Muthoni. “As much as we love being in our own studio comfort zones creating, I think we should also have a role in society,” Muthoni said.
Muthoni’s exhibit is called the Women’s Vote. It addresses the role of Kenyan women in the electoral process and in the country’s leadership.
Young Kenyan artists are largely self-taught. Art was dropped from the curriculum in Kenyan schools nearly 10 years ago.
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