The arts industry in Kenya recently received a boost when the Association of Visual Artists and Collectives (AVAC) was unveiled on June 16 at the Kuona Arts Collective in Nairobi. It will work to advancing the local arts industry through ‘advocacy and resource mobilisation for a stronger network of visual artists and collectives.’
“By becoming an AVAC member, together we create a visible, vibrant and autonomous arts industry,” said chairperson and interdisciplinary artist, Syowia Kyambi.
AVAC was established in 2020 but the officially launch was delayed until this year. Open to Kenyan citizens or resident artists in Kenya, the association will benefit both current and emerging visual artists and is open to creatives in the field of performance and sound art.
As a non-profit, membership-based association AVAC plans to offer services such as tailor-made workshops, connections to legal services and partnerships with art suppliers to give members discounts on materials purchased.
There has been no professional arts association, a weak point in the creative industry of Kenya. Whether it is lobbying on behalf of the visual arts community to the Government, giving guidance to individuals, supporting access to loan facilities and other services, or having a collective voice for creatives, the arts ecosystem here is stifled by the lack of cooperative opportunities and advocacy.
The disparate nature of arts in Kenya means many successful artists have taken their careers and craft overseas where the environment is more welcoming of creatives. For the vast majority of visual artists here it is a life of struggle against monumental odds and consequently the industry generally remains in its infancy.
In Western countries there are thousands of arts societies as private and public bodies focus on specific styles of art or encompassing multiple types of creativity. The UK alone has over 800 arts organisations.