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Summary of the expert meeting

The Mondriaan Foundation is committed to strengthening the international position of contemporary visual arts and design from the Netherlands, and we accomplish this by offering financial support to organizations in over 50 countries. International cooperation and exchange are a priority. Applications from African cultural organisations are fewer than from organisations in other parts of the world. We looked into the reasons for this limited number of applications at a two-day expert meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, where key players from the African visual arts field were invited.
The issues raised and suggestions made by the participants related to four areas:

(1) extending knowledge: the international policy of the Mondriaan Foundation, and other funding agencies as f.e. Pro Helvetia, is based on the promotion of art and design from their own country. Potential applicants are not always familiar with the art scene from the funding agency’s home country. To improve the knowledge on the Dutch and African cultural infrastructure, it is advisable to map the visual arts scene in the Netherlands and the different African countries.

(2) given the specific situation in several African countries, where there is virtually no public or private support for visual arts, conditions concerning local financial support can often not be met.

(3) communication is a key element of successful funding strategies in African countries, both in terms of external communication and informal exchange.

(4) capacity-building: the participants stressed the importance of organizing capacity-building workshops focusing on how to set up successful international exchange projects, including international funding.

The Mondriaan Foundation has taken these recommendations seriously. At this moment, we are building a website with a digital mapping of the Netherlands and a multi-language website for African applicants with a clear overview of funding possibilities. We also sent the report to our international colleagues in Europe and are in contact with them about joint communication. Furthermore, we are looking into adapting the different ways to support projects in Africa. Existing instruments that are used by the Mondriaan Foundation to enhance knowledge and stimulate exchange are the Arts Collaboratory program (by Hivos, the DOEN Foundation and the Mondriaan Foundation), international visitors program and yearly orientation trips.


Sunday, wrapping up

Sunday morning we assembled to discuss the outcome of the speed dating and to make some last recommendations. The speed dating turned out to be effective, a lot of people made arrangements for follow-up meetings. Everyone agreed that it was a great way to meet the Nairobi art scene.

The participants made some final recommendations or summarised the comments from the first day. These were all noted down and will be taken into stride as well. Gitta Luiten thanked the group for their work and input.

After lunch, the participants visited The Go Down, Kuona Trust and RaMoMa together. The group from the Mondriaan Foundation went to evaluate the workshop with Mechtild van den Hombergh, who chaired the expert meeting.

During the weekend, both Dapo Adeniyi and Abdellah Karroum interviewed the participants. These interviews will be made available through their respective websites (see Positions and L’appartement 22).

A summary of the outcomes of the expert meeting will be posted on this blog later on.

Saturday, the expert meeting

We started the first day of the expert meeting by a round of introductions. The people present are either curators, artists or work for a network organisation (or a combination of these three). What became clear from the way everybody introduced their work and the space or network they manage, is the focus on under-represented disciplines such as video art, photography and new media art. Also, there was a strong focus on international exchange and the wish to reach out and collaborate with diverse partners. Outreach programs and projects in public space are also common among many of the organisations present.

After the introductions, Gitta Luiten, director of the Mondriaan Foundation gave a presentation explaining the mission and goals of the foundation and the reason for this expert meeting. She posed questions to the group concerning their experiences with international funding and best practices. From the discussion that followed, we gathered some valuable information and tips. The participants came up with some twenty very concrete suggestions and ideas, on the level of strategy but also on a more practical level. It turned out to be a very productive day!

After the plenary session in the morning, two groups were formed. Each group tackled a set of related issues and questions. The output was reported to the group in the afternoon.

The participants of the expert meeting.

Around 5 o’clock we had to leave for the bar Casablanca where we met some 15 people from the local cultural scene. We organised a speed date event (this means 10 minutes of talking per session and then on to the next person) which turned out to be very productive.

Speed dating at Casablanca.

Friday, visits to The Go Down, RaMoMa and Kuona Trust

Today we visited Go Down Arts Centre, RaMoMa and Kuona Trust in Nairobi.

The Go Down

Our first stop was The Go Down, in the industrial area of the city. The site is a large complex of different studios, spaces and offices located around a central open space.

The Go Down

In these studios we saw artists at work, an annex of the conservatoire, a workspace where bags are designed and made, a music studio for recording, NairoBits new media training, the CCAEA run by Jimmy Ogonga and of course the main gallery space of The Go Down and its large theater space. The program of the main gallery space is to show exhibitions that are experimental and challenge conventions. Because this type of curated exhibition is hard to come by, the gallery space is sometimes (and to the organisers regret) empty.

Judy Ogana of The Go Down in one of the artist studio’s.

Different workspaces and galleries at The Go Down.

One of the more recent shows that Judy Ogana from The Go Down is especially happy with and proud of is the Kenya Burning project that showed the shocking and brutal images of the riots that took place in Kenya a few years ago after the elections.

A work by Kenian artist Michael Soi now on view in the main gallery of The Go Down. The current exhibition at this art centre is put together in collaboration with the ministry and different cultural institutions collaborated in this show and added works to it.

There were a lot of people working in the spaces. They told us that working close to one another was inspiring and the exchange valuable to their work and development. Most of these organisations have an outreach program and work with young people from disadvantaged areas to give them a chance to develop their creative talents. All the organisations within The Go Down serve, as Judy put it, the mandate of The Go Down to promote arts and culture.

Afterwards we drove to RaMoMa, a building set in a beautiful garden with sculptures. They show part of their permanent collection on the ground floor and have different exhibitions on the other floors. They also show work made by young artists and rent and sell art.

One of the temporary exhibitions we saw was by the artist Michael Soi, whose work we also saw at The Go Down. His political, critical work with a defining cartoon-style, is clearly in demand.

Kuona Trust
Finally we went to Kuona Trust. The building is also situated in a beautiful garden with a lot of sculptures and surrounded by artist studio’s. Inside the main building there is a library, computers with internet access for the artists to use and a small exhibition space.

Image of a work hanging in the exhibition space.

The exhibition space is also used for artist talks and film screenings. It is curated by a diverse group of people who are invited to create an exhibition there. The focus is on conceptual art, installations and experimental shows. Outside some 27 artists work in the studio’s, either alone or in a shared studio. There is also a residency space for international artists. The artists are a mixed group of more established artists that give the place prestige and attract younger people and younger, emerging artists. Here as well, we saw a lot of people at work in their studio’s – painting, making sculptures or working with photography. A lot of these artists also give workshops to younger people or have students.

Michael Soi at work in his studio at Kuona Trust.

The garden of Kuona Trust.

More images of the places we visited can be found here.

Preparations for the workshop in full swing!

We have finalised the list of participants! The schedule of the workshop is still under construction but we can already mention that it will include a dinner and speed dating session with the local art scene as well.

This is the list of participants who will take part in the workshop:

  • Joseph Gaylard from Drill Hall in Johannesburg, South Africa.
  • Jimmy Ogonga from Nairobi Arts Trust in Kenya, Nairobi.
  • Dapo Adeniyi, editor at the art magazine Positions, Lagos, Nigeria.
  • Goddy Leye from Art Bakery in Douala, Cameroon.
  • Marilyn Douala Bell, Présidente Doual’Art in Douala, Cameroun.
  • Hama Goro, Centre Soleil d’Afrique, Mali.
  • Abdellah Karroum from l’appartement 22 in Rabat, Morocco.
  • Mulenga Kapwepe from the ARTerial network, she is based in Zambia.
  • William Wells, Town House Gallery, Cairo, Egypt.
  • Martin Mhando from the ZIFF festival in Zanzibar, Tanzania.
  • Ousseynou Wade, general secretary of the Biennale of Dakar.
  • Adwoa Amoah, co-director of the Foundation for Contemporary Art Ghana.
  • Oyinda Fakeye of the Center Contemporary Art, Lagos
  • Patrick Mudekereza, director of Picha, Lubumbashi, R.D. Congo

More information on the participants and their institutions can be found here!

Participants of the speed dating event

During the workshop, we also organise a speed dating event and dinner with the participants of the workshop and people from the local cultural scene . The participants for this evening program are:

Camille Wekesa

Artist, curator of exhibitions of contemporary African art in London and board member of RaMoMA, the Rahimtulla Museum of Modern Art.

Camille Wekesa works primarily as a mural artist both in Kenya and in Europe. Clients include Mr & Mrs A Wildenstein, a family that is world renowned for their involvement in the Arts (and for whom she painted 6 entire rooms at their ranch in Nanyuki) – owners of a leading Art gallery in New York, a contemporary Art gallery, ‘Pace-Wildenstein’ in California and a leading Institute in Paris documenting, researching and writing about ‘The Impressionists’. Other clients include Coca Cola Africa with headquarters in the UK for whom she organised the purchase, curator-ship and documentation of over 180 works of African art including paintings, sculpture and tribal art as well as painting a commissioned boardroom mural. Others include residential, hotel and commercial clients looking to commission a one off unique mural, custom designed for a particular space.

Camille organized and curated the ‘Contemporary Kenya’ art show at the Ensign gallery in London in 2004 and showcased Kenyan artists at two London art fairs. Camille joined RaMoMA gallery as a Trustee and member of the Board in March 2009 with the view to continuing to promote and support upcoming East African artists as well as helping in the long term preservation and conservation of Art within Museums in Kenya.

Personal website :

Judy  Ogana

General manager at The GoDown Arts Centre and earlier the director of Kuona Trust.

The GoDown Arts Centre is a centre, internationally recognized and respected as East Africa’s key institution in nurturing talent in the arts, in a society where artists, confident in their own culture, effectively unleash their creative potential, and make their full contribution to an East African society which values arts and culture as an integral part of life. The GoDown aims to develop independent artists across multiple art forms and to participate in the advancement of the cultural sector, thereby contributing to the establishment of a robust arts and culture sector with expanding receptive audiences.

Follow Judy on Twitter.

Danda Jaroljmek

Director Kuona Trust. Kuona Trust is a not-for-profit organisation founded in 1995 at the National Museum of Kenya to serve visual artists and has since worked with over one thousand five hundred artists giving them skills and opportunities to advance themselves whilst increasing the profile and role of the visual arts in Kenya. We are one of the oldest organisations in East Africa to provides skills, training and opportunities exclusively to visual artists. Our mission is “to advance the skills and opportunities of artists and make art a valued and integral part of our society”. We do this through providing artists with studio spaces, art training workshops, exhibitions and we organize local and international workshops, residencies and artist led outreach projects for local communities. We have just moved to a new space in Hurlingham, Nairobi with studio space for around 20 artists. Visit us to meet artists, buy their work and find out about regular exhibitions, art classes, film showings, artist-led outreach projects and international residencies and workshops.

Keith Pearson

Managing Director of The Theatre Company. Over the past nine years, The Theatre Company has been responsible for some of the most dynamic and adventurous performance work which has been seen in Kenya. In the year 1999, TTC began the first series of Fire By Ten short performance which are designed to give audiences and performers an unusual and exciting performance experience. TTC is also active in the Film Industry.

The productions of Death and the Maiden (1993 and 2003), the Vagina Monologues (2003 and 2005) and Yanagai, Yanagai! (2004)  saw TTC engage in topical, vital, social and political issues; each of these projects had a profound effect on audiences and were the catalysts for important changes in our social structure.

TTC has also had a profound effect on the way in which performances are developed in Kenya. TTC has been instrumental in the development of the devised work technique. Voice of a Dream (2002) KigeziNdoto (2006) and Githaa (2006 and still showing) were developed through the techn  ique of engaging the experiences of the performers. Dance and music are fluidly combined with stories to produce an unique and satisfying performance. Because the stories are drawn from the performers, and the performers are rooted in and connected to society, public audiences find there is a strong connection to this material. In addition, because improvisation is encouraged in this technique, the audience is further attracted by the lack of formality. TTC has produced a performance style by the people and for the people.

The work is seen in communities, bars, restaurants, homes, and sometimes, even in theatres!

The Spaces
Central to the innovative and high quality work of TTC is the ongoing development of an inspiring physical facility at Karichota on Mt. Kenya. Karichota is set in 10 acres of indigenous forest on the slopes of Mt. Kenya and has been an endless source of inspiration to Kenyan artists over the years. Musician Eric Wainaina created his current album there; groups of artists from the Kuona collective have spent months together painting and sculpting. Karichota offers equal inspiration to performance artists. All members of TTC projects have spent a few days there in rehearsal, and all testify to its relaxing yet inspiring atmosphere.

Moses Mbasu (Blaze)
Event manager, writer and CEO of Spark Africa Management.
Moses Mbasu mostly known as Blaze started his career as writer and editor for the first entertainment magazine of its kind called PHAT! Magazine. As an editor he interviewed and mingled with the some of the greatest African artists from Yvonne Chakachaka, Alpha Blondy, the late Lucky Dube, Mandoza, Lebo Mathosa and Brenda Fassie just to name a few.

Being an editor at PHAT! Magazine for many years he found himself becoming an arts activist and an active promoter of musical development in Africa. Through his activism he helped put young Kenyan musicians on the global map and most importantly making them very popular at home. His passion for music has seen him involved in many global arts project such KORA Music Awards in Johannesburg South Africa. He would like to see hip-hop artists get the respect that they deserve on the national and international platform.

Upon leaving PHAT! Magazine, he started a music and arts agency called Spark Africa. Blaze is the manager of the monthly British Council event WAPI (Words and Pictures). WAPI is a celebrated space of creativity in Africa; it started in Nairobi in 2006 and Blaze has been instrumental in having it spread out to Lagos-Nigeria, Dar es Salaam- Tanzania, Zanzibar, Accra- Ghana and Kampala- Uganda. WAPI has paved the way for forgotten creative expression.

As CEO of Spark Africa Management he has been involved in many music projects including Emcee Africa, Slam Africa, Your City Summit in Durban South Africa, UN Habitat Youth Empowerment Summit, UN Habitat Urban Youth & Arts Summit. With a passion for global art, culture and music, he spends his free time engaging young people to use their creative abilities for positive change.

Through his work Blaze has been able to transform the arts landscape in Nairobi and created an environment of creative freedom. Moses Mbasu is a correspondent for Amsterdam based online magazine BaobabConnections. He has written for local newspapers such as Nation, Standard and Adam magazine. He is the international contributor to North Carolina USA based Tribe Magazine.

Maggie Otieno

Maggie Otieno is an artist and General Manager at AfricanColours. AfricanColours has just redesigned and launched their new website. The organisation plays a major role in distributing information on arts online. AfricanColours works towards a “viable contemporary African art scene that is internationally recognized and technologically savvy”. We do so by “Connecting artists and engaging the art industry through leveraging technologies, offering cultural experiences in and creating value for contemporary visual arts in Africa”.

Angela Wachuka

Angela Wachuka is the Executive Director of Kwani Trust. She oversees the Trust’s daily operations and provides direction toward the achievement of the organisation’s mission, strategy, annual goals and objectives.

Angela joined Kwani Trust in February 2008 and previous to this, studied and worked in England for 6 years. As a Freelancer for the BBC’s African News and Current Affairs Department, she worked as a Broadcasting Assistant on both Focus on Africa and Network Africa Radio Programmes, and on the quarterly Focus on Africa Magazine. Angela holds a BA in Anthropology & Law from the London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) and has held various research-oriented posts at the London Borough of Lambeth, the Association of British Insurers and the Centre for African Policy & Peace Strategy (CAPPS) in London.

Carol Lees
Former director of RaMoMA who started her own gallery, the One Off Contemporary Art Gallery in Nairobi where she represents African painters.

Sanne van den Berg
Cultural attaché at the Dutch ambassy in Kenia.

Will Janssen
Regional Representative for Hivos.

Rudy van Dijck
Chairman & Founder Sarakasi Trust

Sarakasi Trust is a performance arts developmental organization that was founded in 2001. We facilitate training and capacity building of acrobats, dancers and musicians from the slums.

Location map of the participants

View Kenya workshop in a larger map