Monday, July 29, 2013

Art: Backlash on Kenya’s Performance at 55th Venice Biennial Continues..

Backlash on Kenya's de-tasteful performance at Venice continues this time on a well written post in the blogosphere. I like his assertion below; 
The presence of a national pavilion, especially for countries participating for the first time, signifies a confidence; a newfound progressiveness and cultural involvement by governments, which demonstrates to the world the brilliance of contemporary artists available within the nation’s borders. It also goes to demonstrate a society with a heightened creative capacity, one that continuously speaks to itself and possesses a cultural consciousness that the government continuously supports. - cryptic paradoxes
You can read the whole article here 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Nairobi Graffiti Train: Keeping the Peace by All Means before the March 4 2013 Elections!

Kenya in the run up to the March 4, 2013 General election was awash with peace campaigns of all manner. A good example is the graffiti peace train. The logic behind this was the train passes smack in the middle of one of the informal settlements in the city which was a hot spot in the disputed 2007 elections.

Creative Kenya: Just a Band's New Video Dunia ina Mambo

 Listen to Just a Band latest music video with some subtle political overtones of the 1980′s and based on the soundtrack of a popular detective sitcom of early 90′s called Tahamaki

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Research Findings: From Theatre Royal to Pop-up Galleries - Timeline of Art Venues in Nairobi by Olivier Marcel

Maybe one day Nairobi will be laid out with tarred roads, with avenues of flowering trees, flanked by noble spaces and stately squares; a cathedral worthy of faith and country, museums and galleries of art, theatres and public offices. - Dutton Eric in Kenya Mountain, 1929
In Volume XI n° 3 – 2013 of Mambo! [IFRA Publication] Olivier Marcel takes a closer look at art venues in Nairobi from 1910 to present day. Then, he goes ahead to give a visual representation/mapping of art venues vis a vis key political events in Kenya and East Africa.
In his finding Oliver posits that most of the art venues and institutions in Nairobi lack institutional memory.
An astonishing example is the fifty year old Goethe-Institut, which has virtually nothing but testimonies to account for the activity that preceded the arrival of the current director in 2007. Additionally, when a venue shuts down, as did Wahome Mutahi’s popular Citrus Whispers Theatre in Ngara, its memory is only shared orally in small circles of theatre enthusiasts and progressively fades into oblivion.
Marcel also observes that there might be differences of intention between local organizers and their western counter parts. Western donors will usually partner with art organizers with the sole agenda of putting Nairobi on the Map! 

This paper also points out how foreign donors came to settle in the art space. As is always the case most of the foreign donors have a role play and an agenda they seek to push.  Marcel makes this clear by pointing out how informal settlements have become attractive for art projects which are usually financed by foreign donors.
Download the publication here [pdf]

Olivier Marcel is a PhD student in geography who is currently completing his thesis titled “Tracing Art from Nairobi, Geog­raphy of Art Mobilities in an East African Metropolis” (Bordeaux 3 University - LAM, UMR 5115).

Monday, July 15, 2013

European Union Election Observation Mission to Kenya: Final Report

EU Election Observation Mission Report
Download the EU election observation mission report here

Kenya Rising: Record Sales figures achieved by Kenyan Artists at AfricaNow Exhibition at Bonhams London

AfricaNow Poster
Bonham's has an exhibition and sale aptly titled AfricaNow which has been take place each year from 2009. The focus of AfricaNow exhibition is to bring to the world the flourishing modern and contemporary African art. 
This year’s exhibition has seen the hosting of a charity auction of eight lots by eight contemporary Kenyan artists, in association with The African Arts Trust and Circle Art Agency with the generous sponsorship of Afren. The proceeds from this auction are intended to go directly to projects that support the development of visual art education in this country
The eight artists included in this auction represent all that is best from the current crop of Kenyan contemporary artists. These artists were selected by Danda Jaroljmek of Circle Art Agency and Robert Devereux of African Arts Trust.

Download the AfricaNow catalogue here

Artists who participated and Prices their work fetched
1.  Joseph Bertiers (Kenyan, born 1963) Yesterday afternoon, 2013 Sold for £4,000 inc. premium
Yesterday Afternoon by Joseph Bertiers
Yesterday afternoon depicts a busy market scene after the announcement of the failure of the biometric BVR vote-tallying system at the recent Kenyan elections in March 2013. The IEBC announced they would be counting the votes by hand, which caused panic-buying by Kenyans anxious to get home. In the ensuing rush, traders got top prices for their wares.
2. Michael W. Soi (Kenyan, born 1972) China loves Africa 6 Sold for £3,250 inc. premium
China loves Africa by Michael Soi
China loves Africa 6 is part of a series of ten works created between 2012 and 2013 which addresses the presence of China in Africa. Soi views China’s involvement in Africa as a type of economic recolonisation.
3.  Anthony Okello (Kenyan, born 1976) Masquerade, 2013 each 42 x 63cm (16 9/16 x 24 13/16). diptych (2) Sold for £6,250 inc. premium
4. James Muriuki (Kenyan, born 1977) Untitled (from the series 'Undefined Constructions'), 2013 Sold for £1,250 inc. premium
5. Beatrice Wanjiku (Kenyan, born 1978) This constant yearning, 2013 Sold for £2,500 inc. premium
6. Peterson Kamwathi (Kenyan, born 1980) Untitled (from the 'Peri-Urban Encounters' series) Sold for £3,250 inc. premium
7. Paul Onditi (Kenyan, born 1980) Half Life, 2013 Sold for £3,125 inc. premium
8. Cyrus Kabiru (Kenyan, born 1984) C-Stunners Mini Morris Sold for £1,500 inc. premium

Uchaguzi 2013 M&E Report: A Post Mortem of Uchaguzi Project 2013

Screen Shot of Uchaguzi
iHub Research recently released the highly anticipated report on the Uchaguzi deployment.  Below are some of the highlights I picked from M&E report.

On Technology
Such election watch projects should not be geared so much towards the technology itself, but rather should explore best practices for building viable partnerships around such technology platforms to amplify citizens’ voices in the electoral process in the long term – and thus contribute towards an improved democracy.
On Publicity & Outreach
The fragmented mode of publicity and outreach made it the weakest link in the deployment. Therewas no overall guiding strategy hence each partner was left to his or her own approach leaving room for duplication of efforts or missing some activities. There was only one documented strategy, around the community radio outreach.
On Citizen Experience
“Don’t risk missing the bigger story here: the simple act of residents recording actual ground level events themselves will have a long-term transformative impact on society – nowhere perhaps, as profoundly as in places like informal settlements.” - Erica Hagen, co-founder of Map Kibera & GroundTruth Initiative
Key Take Away
Incidentally the key recommendations for the Uchaguzi deployment were done three years ago. This is from the Uchaguzi: Case Study by Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Knight Foundation written in 2010 after the first deployment of Uchaguzi in Kenya and the general election in Tanzania. Their recommendations were as follows;
• Plan early. One resounding challenge was aiming to achieve many objectives in such a short time period. Planning early, from 6-12 months prior to an election/referendum was strongly and widely recommended.
• Further build effective partnerships. Defining and agreeing on roles, responsibilities and expectations will help partners implement a successful project.
• Develop Strategies (e.g., campaign, feedback to action, security and privacy). Strategies should aim to 1) improve the filtering and verifying large volumes of information; 2) strengthen feedback loops and action by building an urgent response team, and; 3) provide any necessary security & privacy plans for the project and its users.
• Use simulation. Simulation exercises can help identify obstacles, test new technology, and improve workflows and communication approaches. These activities can better prepare people for an upcoming election/referendum day and provide a wealth of community building and learning opportunities.
• Paper maps. Uchaguzi-Tanzania participants recommend transforming the web-based map into paper maps. This would help local partners share the information with communities that are unable to access the map in its online format. Sharing maps in a newspaper immediately after the election would also broaden the reach of Uchaguzi efforts.
About Uchaguzi
Uchaguzi was developed to avert crisis by acting as an early warning system or preventing the escalation of identified incidents to crisis proportions. This is a buildup of the Ushahidi deployment which was done in December 2007 and early 2008.

Uchaguzi enabled Kenyans to keep an eye on the vote and provided avenues through which they could report any incidences significant to the election, with any technology available to them thereby facilitating collaboration between wananchi (Swahili for citizens), election observers, humanitarian response agencies, civil society, community-based organizations, and law enforcement agencies to monitor elections.

Download the report here

Economic Insights: Kenya 2013 Budget Brief by KPMG

KPMG Budget Brief
Download the Budget brief prepared by KPMG here

Friday, July 12, 2013

Public Lecture: Virtuous Leadership Alexandre Havard, Jul. 15 2013 @ Strathmore University Auditorium

Public Lecture: Virtuous Leadership by Alexandre Havard Poster

Conference: Sheng Language in Kenya - Structure, Uses & Pedagogy, Jul. 16 2013 @ IFRA

Date: July 16, 2013
Venue: IFRA-Nairobi
Time: 10am-1pm
Entry: Prior RSVP at
Sheng emerged in the 1960s in the multicultural environment of Nairobi. It is an urban language which combines mainly Kiswahili and English but also other Kenyan languages such as Kikuyu, Luyha, Dholuo and Kikamba. Sheng is characterized by an important linguistic flexibility. It does not have an official status even if it is widely spoken, especially by the youth. Originally used as a vehicular language between people from different regions, it is increasingly becoming a vernacular language, some people born in the 1980s or later speaking Sheng as their first language. 
Studies on Sheng describe the codes functions as falling somewhere between secret uses, in its extreme registers, and a general lingua franca purpose. This use as a lingua franca is perceived to neutralize the formality of standard Swahili – regarded as difficult – while at the same time countering the parochial aspects of using ethnic languages. However, current research appears to indicate that Sheng has overrun its original domains and registers: it now permeates the entire sociolinguistic landscape of Kenya. 
The conference will be chaired by Prof. Fredrick K. Iraki (United States International University, Nairobi) and facilitated by Claude Frey (Université de Paris 3, French Embassy in Nairobi). 
“Linguistic and sociolinguistic description of Sheng” by Aurelia Ferrari (French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, France). This presentation focuses on phonological, morphological, syntactical and lexical characteristics of Sheng and languages practices/representations in Nairobi. It will also include a brief discussion on artistic uses of Sheng (in hip hop music, literature, mchongwano since Sheng is part of popular culture in Nairobi. 
“The rise and rise of Sheng: language and identity in modern Kenya” by Prof. Chege Githiora (Kenyatta University, and School of Oriental and African Studies, UK). Based on recent and ongoing research, this presentation explores the implications of the Sheng phenomenon for school curricula, language use, national identity, and language policy and implementation in Kenya. 
“Sheng and Language Pedagogy” by Prof. Peter Githinji (Ohio University, Athens USA). This presentation discusses the issue of language pedagogy and exam performance, exploring the challenges posed by Sheng in teaching Swahili in foreign institutions; it asserts that dealing with language pedagogy issues should involve collaborative efforts between teachers of Swahili in Kenya and abroad.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Observation: Samantha Power at the UN should be a consern to UhuRuto Government

Samantha Power replaced Susan Rice as the next US ambassador to the United Nation. Recently we witnessed the UruRuto Government flexing its muscle by lobbying African government to support their cause through the African Union. This was an expected move from the two considering they currently facing charges at the ICC. however, the appointment and confirmation of Samantha Power should put some brakes into the recently adopted AU position on ICC cases. According the leaning of power and writings then the coming times should be pretty interesting to watch.
But Power's staunch advocacy of U.S. intervention on moral grounds has long appealed to neoconservatives who share her view that the principle of sovereign national borders is not absolute
Recommended reading 

Great Presentation on Kenya: Why Kenya is the Next Tech Capital

Below is an excellent presentation by Sofia Zab on Why Kenya is the next Silicon Savannah

All the President’s Men: The Men and Women Advising UhuRuto Government

It is almost one hundred days since Uhuru Kenyatta ascended to the presidency and the coming into office of the Jubilee government. A lot has taken place in the last ninety days and while the jury may not be out on how President Uhuru Kenyatta will is expected to perform we have the first hundred days as a yard stick to measure his leadership mantle. The most significant occurrence for me was the announcement of the cabinet which left even the most astute political commentator’s way off. However just like the previous governments and all governments for that matter there are what is normally called the presidential men/women. Below are some key folks to watch out in UhuRuto government.
Key Presidency Staff
  1. Chief of Staff and Private Secretary to the President Jomo Gecaga [President's Kin]
  2. Head of Presidential Press Service - Isaiah Kabira [President Kibaki's PPS]

  1. Chief of Staff for the Deputy President  - Marianne Kitany
  2. Private Secretary - Reuben Maiyo
  3. Head of Deputy President Press Service - David Mugonyi

  1. Abdikadir Mohammed - former MP and an instrumental figure in drafting of new constitution
  2. Joshua Kuttuny - former MP and a Ruto diehard
  3. Sam Ongeri - former MP & foreign affairs Minister who supported Uhuru in Kisii land
  4. Jasper Mbiuki - lawyer who is also TNA legal secretary, instrumental in setting up TNA and seconded the president at IEBC
  5. Nancy Gitau - Kibaki's political adviser who is said to know where the wind blows
  6. Nixon Korir  - URP official

Abdikadir is in the presidents special adviser on devolution and constitutional affairs and is based at State House while Sam Ongeri, is the special adviser on governance issues. Kuttuny is a special adviser on political affairs. These three are based at Harambee House in the city centre.
Former Treasury PS Joseph Kinyua is the special adviser on finance and economic affairs while KenGen MD Eddy Njoroge is the government’s adviser on energy and petroleum.
Jasper Mbiuki is a legal adviser to the Presidency while Nancy Gitau is a special adviser on governance. These two are based at State House.

Nixon Korir is a special adviser on youth affairs and special projects and is based at Ruto's Harambee Avenue office.
Source the star

Ten Cities Project on Guardian - Ten Cities, a million tunes: Antinodes Picked

Here are a few antinodes picked from Ten Cities, a million tunes by Caspar Llewellyn Smith
The project is the baby of the organisation's genial director, Johannes Hossfeld, who had nothing to do in the evenings when he arrived in the city six years ago. "So I went clubbing – and I found myself thinking, 'What is going on here? It is so utterly different from in Germany!'
It is part of an impressively resourced project called Ten Cities that is criss-crossing Africa and Europe seeking answers to these questions: 
  1. "What is the social meaning of music in Johannesburg and Kiev? 
  2. How is electric music produced and distributed in Luanda and in Lisbon? 
  3. What is the meaning of the public sphere in Cairo and in Naples? 
  4. What does identity entail in Lagos and Berlin? 
  5. What is subculture in Bristol and in Nairobi? 
  6. And, most importantly, what if these 10 scenes were to respond directly to each other?" 
"It's so much easier to make music with software like that, and it can run on cheap PCs which are suddenly everywhere. It means power has been taken out of the studios." Coupled with transformations in distribution, thanks to the likes of Facebook and Soundcloud, "things are very different from even five years ago. It's all more anarchic."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Public Lecture: by Joseph Weiler’s from NYU Law School, Jul. 9 2013 @ Strathmore Law School

Essays & Poems by Kenyan Writers: Kenya Refuses, Published by @ the New Inquiry

Our choices in this election were Uhuru Kenyatta’s Catholic Divine Right Imperial Monarchy or Raila Odinga’s Talk Left Walk Right Patriarchy. - Politics of Contempt by Shailja Patel

Kenya Refuses is a supplement of the new inquiry edited by Shailja Patel and Aaron Bady. It is a carnival of transgressive Kenyan voices.

In essays and dialogues, in postcards and poetry, nine Kenyans map out their rejection of both the premises and the outcome of Kenya’s March 2013 election.

Contributions from Keguro Macharia, Wambui Mwangi, Marziya Mohammedali, Ngwatilo Mawiyoo, Michael Onsando, Orem Ochiel, Okwiri Oduor, Kenne Mwikya and Shailja Patel

Download #KenyaRefuses here