• Written by Elma den Toom
    22 July 2014

Above: (from left) Rahim Otieno, Sarakasi Trust; Jane Mbugua, Sarakasi Trust;  Shitemi Khamadi, PAWA254; Lynnet Ngigi, Kuona Trust. Photo credit: Mwarv Kirubi.

Social change through cultural arts in Kenya
Preserving and promoting cultural arts is widely believed to be a powerful social capital asset in any country and a valuable tool for development cooperation. With this in mind, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ International Cultural Policy Unit (ICE), the Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi, CommonSites and Akvo are working together to increase communication, visibility and transparency of projects funded within the framework of the Culture and Development Programme in a number of priority countries, including Surinam, Palestinian Territory, Kenya, South Africa, Mali, Egypt, Indonesia and Afghanistan. Three of these projects are Sarakasi Trust, Kuona Trust and PAWA254, all of which are based in Nairobi, Kenya. Although all three organisations are unique entities, they do share one common goal: the development of cultural arts amongst underprivileged youth to enable social change within Kenya.

Dutch Embassy Kenya 2.850px

Above: (center) Jane Mbugua, Sarakasi Trust; Rahim Otieno, Sarakasi Trust; Shitemi Khamadi, PAWA254; Lynnet Ngigi, Kuona Trust accompanied by the Sarakasi dancers and acrobats. Photo credit: Mwarv Kirubi.

Sarakasi Trust successfully enables social change through acrobatics, dance and music and by outsourcing and training over a 1,000 young promising artists (most of whom originate from slum areas in Nairobi) and providing them with the necessary tools to manage not only their art, but also their lives and careers more effectively and successfully. In addition to this, the Trust aims to showcase the very best of Kenyan creativity to the widest possible audience by organising frequent national events and festivals, cultural exchanges and local and international performance contracts and tours.

Kuona Trust is a centre for visual arts with the aim of generating, presenting and promoting innovative contemporary visual arts practices in Kenya. Through Kuona Trusts’ various facilities, as the artists’ studios, library, programme of exhibitions, artists’ talks, training and mentoring, education and international exchange, thousands of artistic talents have already been provided with opportunities to develop new and experimental contemporary artwork.

The name PAWA254 is derived from the slang word ‘pawa’, coming from the English ‘power’ combined with Kenya’s country code. It is a social enterprise through which innovative young professionals, such as photographers, graphic artists, journalists, musicians and poets, exploit their creative talents to foster social change. PAWA254 was setup in 2012 and has since recruited, trained and equipped over 100,000 underprivileged youths with the aim of reshaping the media landscape in Kenya, thus impacting society positively through arts.

Above: Videos shot during the Akvo RSR training workshop at the Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi. 3 June 2014. Video editing courtesy Sam Soko, Pawa 254.

What’s happening here?
To provide additional support to the projects in the Culture and Development Programme, the ICE and CommonSites have teamed up with Akvo foundation to initiate an online platform for the project partners through Akvo’s Really Simple Reporting (RSR) tool. This platform allows project partners to showcase their programme to a wide international audience, with the possibility of raising additional funds and to place frequent updates on events and activities taking place. Akvo not only makes the programmes visible online via RSR, but also facilitates RSR workshops to train project partners on how to report.

Dutch Embassy Kenya.850px

Who is using Akvo tools on the ground?
On the 3rd of June 2014, we facilitated an RSR training workshop, held at the Netherlands Embassy in Nairobi. In total seven key communication and programme management staff members from Sarakasi Trust, Kuona Trust and PAWA254 took part. The training in itself was interactive and fun and went very well, largely because all participants already had extensive experience using different types of social media and uploading written and visual information. Part of the Akvo RSR training workshop also includes a section with tips and tricks on video making and, in this case, we had invited Sam Soko, Head Video Editor at PAWA254, to facilitate the session. This turned out to be a great success, resulting in three professional short films that the participants made during the training, giving background information on each of the projects. You can watch these great videos here.

Elma den Toom is partnership assistant at Akvo’s East Africa hub.

Other stories in the Akvo partner heroes series: