The Cool Kids of Kenya
By 2050, 1.3 billion people of the 7 billion on earth will come from the continent of Africa.
With population growth at such explosive levels, job growth levels are just barely keeping up– causing millions of working-age people left out in the cold.
But Kenya’s tight-knit creative community refuse to be left behind. Using platforms like Instagram, they are growing their creative businesses in photography, art, music, and spoken-word.
On the Growing Culture of Creativity in Kenya
“It’s an exciting time to be a creative professional in Kenya,” says Kenya based photographer Sarah Waiswa.”
Sarah, who was born in Uganda, has been featured in Vogue.com and believes the young creative community in Kenya is coming into its own.
“Everyday we become less and less afraid to express ourselves. Ten years ago in Kenya, and I am sure in other parts of Africa, art was not the type of career parents encouraged their children to pursue. Today, parents are more liberal and accepting of their children’s choices.”
“The Kenyan creative scene is quite vibrant and forward-moving, but recognition only comes once you are acknowledged outside of Kenya.” – Joe Were, Photographer
“Kenya for me is refreshing and exciting,” says photographer Nariman Muhashamy. “It has been a great learning curve for me personally. The creative industry here is quite young, vibrant and warm. So many creatives are popping up with unique approaches to music, photography, fashion, spoken word and the likes.”
“It’s a growing culture. I don’t know about before, but it’s very friendly and welcoming now. Many of the creatives that I have met through Instameets, are now good friends of mine. In fact, I think Instagram has been a huge platform for helping grow the creative community here, and through it we’ve been able to learn from one another and help each other nurture our talents.”
On Getting a Creative Job in Kenya
Trevor Jerry (his real name is Trevor Maingi) is 26 and was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya with his mother, father and twin and younger brother. For him, inspiration comes from all places and people, but especially music. He’s surprised how hard it’s been for creatives to advance in his country.
“It’s been difficult,” says Trevor. “In this country we are blinded by what’s old. There are only a few willing to take risks and be open minded. Opportunities have started coming up slowly. People are slowly opening to working with creatives. But still there are not too many of us.”
“Being a creative in Nigeria is tough. You have to constantly defend your worth, work ‘triple time’ and often for peanuts. But it is also refreshing. Nigeria is constantly evolving and there is so much room for ingenuity, for creativity and for boldness.” –Oyinkansola Braithwaite, Publisher at Writer at Work
On Creatives Changing the Future
“Around here, people have really caught the self-employment bug in a major way,” says trained videographer Faith Musembi.
Faith was born and raised in Kenya and remains there despite a 4 year stint in the United States as an international student in Quincy, Massachusetts.
“The most admired jobs here are the ones considered to be new and fresh. In other words, it’s jobs that were previously looked down upon that are becoming more envied. And the cool thing is that they are almost all in the arts. The main reason that they’re envied is because people are making a good living from them, most people set their own schedules and can basically do their own thing.”
“But there is a dark side. This industry is new here because it’s so fluid there are no real standards. This lax structure can sometimes mean that one’s creativity is taken for granted and not always appreciated as it should be. Which has economic repercussions – especially for those working full time as creatives.”
“Yet despite all of the setbacks, there is an awakening here. More and more Kenyans are growing to appreciate creativity in all its bold, subtle, off-kilter, and diverse forms. It’s a thrilling time to be living and loving as a creative in Kenya.”
Feature photo by Sarah Waiswa