Creative Art Space, French set for art and cultural tour

Anoor Band performs during World Kiswahili Day.

Anoor Band performs during World Kiswahili Day at the Utamaduni Centre in Lamu town.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

  • Creative Art Space in Kenya is incubating an ambitious vision to develop and support five different arts and cultural spaces all over the country.
  • While one aim is to provide an improved home for artists and creative industries, another is to offer valuable public services that anchor the building in community life.
  • According to Achitsa, CASiK will be committing a total investment of 125,000 Euros (Sh15 million) for the five spaces.

In the late 1990s, there grew a need for Kenyan artistes to come together in a creative hub.

Places for creative production were scarce, exhibitions of cultural and art centres even more so.

Over the years, that has slightly changed with a few cultural and art enthusiast investors mushrooming to support the Kenyan cultural arts industry.

Creative Art Space in Kenya (CASiK) is one such crusader.

A brainchild of Alliance Française Kenya supported by the Embassy of France, CASiK is incubating an ambitious vision to develop and support five different arts and cultural spaces all over the country that represent its diverse practitioners, audiences and tribal communities.

Public services

While one aim is to provide an improved home for artists and creative industries, another is to offer valuable public services that anchor the building in community life.

Through workshops and training, ideas and wish lists have been generated. 

On the night of July 7, 2022, when Lamu’s oldest live performing dance orchestra, Anoor Band, showcased the vivacity of Taarab music to the locals and foreigners at the newly refurbished Lamu Youth Alliance Utamaduni centre, as Africa celebrated the first World Kiswahili Language Day, CASiK was on site too, to officially inaugurate the venue, the first of the five cultural spaces.

Unlike before, the newly-renovated Sh2 million 200-seater capacity centre now boasts of a modern art sound system, light equipment and a bigger stage floor.

“CASiK is a huge project that will foster how artists within Kenya will be able to collaborate and reach new audiences. We want to promote art in different parts of the country and proper equipping of spaces with sound and light is important. For us, the ability of an artist to showcase their work at five unique venues with adequate technical and artistic infrastructure is a major step in supporting and promoting Kenya’s diverse culture.” CASiK project coordinator Bethsheba Achitsa told Saturday Nation during the inaugural festivity in Lamu.

Established as a community-based organisation, Lamu Youth Alliance, through its artistic anchor platform ArCH Lamu, provides a space for arts and cultural training and performance for the Lamu youth. It also seeks to promote and preserve the island’s traditional cultural practices.

Five spaces

According to Achitsa, CASiK will be committing a total investment of 125,000 Euros (Sh15 million) for the five spaces which also include Dunga Hill Camp in Kisumu, Sarakasi Trust in Nairobi, Nakuru Players Society and Swahili Pot Hub in Mombasa.

Established in 1949, Nakuru Players Society is one of the oldest theatres in Kenya which has been supporting the arts in the Rift Valley.

It regularly presents live acts across different performing arts and hosts film and theatre festivals.

Situated in one of Nairobi’s iconic buildings, Sarakasi Dome, Sarakasi Trust was established in 2001 to facilitate training and performance opportunities for acrobats and dancers.

The venue seeks to develop programming that empowers the youth.

A vibrant venue, Swahili Pot Hub sits at the intersection of arts and technology.

With the youth at the core of its programming, the venue has become a vibrant space in the cultural and tech areas in Mombasa and the Coast environs.

Right on the shores of Lake Victoria, Dunga Hill Camp is a fast-growing arts and cultural space in Kisumu with its regular arts programming already playing a role in supporting both established and upcoming artists.

But why only five cultural spaces?

“The idea here is to work with groups that already have a presence in the country and are already working with the youth to give them opportunities to further develop and promote their creativity.” Harista Waters, Alliance Française Head of Cultural Affairs explained.

Since its launch a year ago, leveraging on French expertise in Cultural engineering, CASiK has so far managed to train 16 technicians in security and safety precautions for live performing spaces by a trainer from the French institute ‘Institut Supérieur de Techniques du Spectacle’ from Avignon.

The institute is an education centre dedicated to stage technology for live performances.

The project has also upskilled 13 cultural managers from different performance arts spaces in Kisumu, Nakuru, Nairobi, Mombasa, Lamu and Kakamega counties.

Led by Kenyan creative enterprise trainer David Murithi, the training provided private and public space practitioners involved in the development of performing arts programmes and management of artistic and cultural projects, with the necessary skills to effectively grow and manage sustainable arts and cultural venues in the sector that benefit the larger artists communities and the society.

Dubbed ‘Learn to Brand, Brand to Earn’, the project has also equipped 180 artists across the country with modern branding and marketing know-how.

Growing communities

The workshops covered building identities, growing communities and networks both online and offline and leveraging digital platforms for income generation.

Later this year, music production workshops for Deejays will also be held in collaboration with Santuri East Africa, a social enterprise Arts organization in Nairobi.

Santuroi offers platforms that support East African Music producers, Deejays, Sound engineers and other music industry professionals.

Starting September this year, the project will launch a Sh6 million cultural national tour by the CASiK venue partners with performances ranging from theatre pieces such as Umoja na Sanaa that will be staged by Nakuru Players society, Desturi ugenini by Swahilipot Hub, Circus arts by Sarakasi Trust and musical performances by Loko Band in Dunga Hill camp and Taarab music by the Lamu Youth Alliance.

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