Networking New Opportunities for Artists in East Africa

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: School of Arts and Cultures

Abstract

This interdisciplinary research project Networking New Opportunities for Visual Artists in East Africa draws together visual artists, arts organisations, funders, policy makers, academics and other stakeholders in the visual arts from Uganda, Kenya and Rwanda. Through hands-on, collaborative workshops and the creation and exhibition of temporary new artworks it will explore how new opportunities and career pathways can be developed for artists working in East Africa. The goal is to help them build sustainable livelihoods, an international development priority, and to build capacity in the creative industries in East Africa.
A recent report for the British Council states 'East African countries are set on a path to become middle income countries in the next twenty years.' The creative industries are an area of growth. 'We are getting better at understanding and valuing the impacts of a strong creative industries sector... underpinned by excellence and distinctiveness. The creative economy will play a central role in delivering the next phase of growth, increasing prosperity and enabling a greater diversity of cultural expressions to reach new audiences and for people to make a living from their creativity. Whilst the extraction of poverty remains the No1 priority, there is growing realisation that the creative and cultural aspirations and needs of citizens cannot wait forever to be met'.
The Uganda National Culture Policy (2005) asserts that 'Cultural industries have the potential to promote livelihoods...create employment opportunities and produce economic gains at all levels, promoting creativity and expressing messages that foster understanding and peace'. The policy's key interventions include 'promoting and supporting budding creative artists: ...visual arts...have the potential to reduce income poverty if their quality and quantity is deliberately enhanced'. 'Collaboration amongst stakeholders' and 'the setting up of networks in culture' are stated priorities.
The East African Community Creative and Cultural Industries Bill (2015) was seen as a boost for artists, but very little has happened since. The proposed Creative and Cultural Industries Development Council that was to lead developments has not been established. There continues to be minimal investment in the creative cultural industries: in Uganda there is still no provision for teaching creative arts subjects in schools.
Within this context, the network will address challenges facing artists who want to build sustainable careers and decent livelihoods. It will partner with leading organisations working in the field: the British Council in East Africa, the African Arts Trust, 32 Degrees Ugandan Arts Trust and grassroots organisations. Working in collaboration with these partners it will develop a series of network workshops which will facilitate artists and arts organisations to scope and define tangible new opportunities and career pathways. The make-up of the network and the design of its events has been developed through intensive discussion in Africa with its prospective participants, many of whom will lead workshop events. Each workshop will be given innovative focus through a series of temporary artwork commissions, sited in high profile sites in the public realm close to the workshop venues, each created by an East African artist specially for the event.
The network will develop thematic challenges identified by its participants, addressing these from multiple perspectives, sharing the knowledge and experience of East African scholars, artists, art professionals, policy makers and audiences, and the international research team. Working together in three workshops in two cities, each workshop led by a different organisation, bringing new voices and approaches to bear on the problems, participants will devise, debate and concretise opportunities that can achieve real and tangible impacts on artists' lives and on the creative economy in the EAC

Planned Impact

The project will impact on those communities identified in the reports and policies and identified in the Case for Support. These are creative artists working in East Africa whose career opportunities and livelihoods can be enhanced, the organisations who support creative artists working in society and encourage greater public engagement with the visual arts, and the creative industries more broadly,which is set to have an increasingly important profile within the EAC. (see evidence in CfS). Development of the creative industries is a priority both for their potential for positive economic impact but also for their capacity to bring less quantifiable benefits: to 'promote creativity, optimise skills and human resources...and express messages that foster understanding and peace' (Uganda National Culture Policy 2005 p20).
Within this international development context, the network is designed to impact on its direct participants: visual artists and arts organisations active in East Africa, on those who fall within this group but do not participate directly, and more broadly, over a longer time-frame, on stakeholders in the creative industries in the EAC. There will be impacts on the local academic sector, and on the public who visit the 'case study' art commissions. Workshop focus will be on practical methods and strategies for practitioners to improve their livelihoods, sharing experience and gaining new knowledge of: the potential benefits of collaboration, professional development, mentoring, entrepreneurship, opportunities offered by new modes of art production (particularly relevant in Africa) and working in the public-realm.
Visual arts organisations, funders and policy makers will gain new knowledge through discussion about new strategies for artists' careers, particularly hearing the responses to these ideas articulated by the artists themselves. Through this process, the network will impact on development of future strategy. Organisations will also gain new understanding of the relevance and potential application of academic research to their activities. The six on-site commissions will give network participants and audiences an opportunity to engage with contemporary art made in response to specific environments, including museum and heritage contexts. For the public the commissions will provide an introduction to art in different contexts that could stimulate future interest in and enjoyment of the contemporary arts and their appreciation of the relevance of creativity within developments in East African society.
Through these new engagements between policy makers, art agencies and the public with art and artists in East Africa, the network will positively impact on the profile and status of artists within their communities, challenging stakeholder perceptions of role and value of creative practitioners, and the importance of them establishing sustainable careers within a creative economy which is set to become an increasingly significant segment within the overall EAC economic context. Given a political context where recognition of the value of growing the creative economy has been demonstrated through measures such as the Creative and Cultural Industries Bill (2015), but where there is still little evidence of the will to provide significant support, the impacts this network aims for are pressing.
Once the network is established, its impact will be sustained through continuing dialogues and exchanges between participants, and by seeking to concretising these into tangible opportunities for change. Situating our activities locally in East Africa with locally based network partners and Co-Is positions the network well for ongoing impact. We anticipate that proceedings will generate ambitious long term ideas that would benefit from further development support from regional and international sources. We will be keen to contribute to future research that responds to opportunities to capture this support.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Title Dilman Dila, Robots of the Pearl 
Description An artwork, part of the exhibition Kla Art organised by visual arts organisation 32 Degrees Ugandan Arts Trust, this commission was funded as a part of the project Networking New Opportunities for artists in East Africa 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact This commission provided exposure for Dilman Dila in an important public art festival in East Africa 
URL https://klaart.org/
 
Title Dodderodge and Sparrow. Graffiti Crew, Stories on Walls, Mural Project of Kampala 
Description The artists group Graffiti Crew, lead by artists Dodderidge and Sparrow and working with the exhibition team from visual arts organisation 32 Degrees East Ugandan Arts trust obtained permission from KCC (Kampala Civic Authority) to create new graffiti works in Katanga slum, Kampala. This project was part of the Kla Art public art festival. The research project 'Networking Opportunities for Artists in East Africa' provided funding for four of the commissioned projects. 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact This project had a huge impact on the residents of Katanga slum, who enthusiastically participated in the creation of the artworks. The project also led to Dodderidge and Sparrow forming new links with other communities in Kampala and creating other artworks 
URL https://klaart.org/
 
Title Jared Onyango, Jua Klai Pedestrian 
Description This performance, staged multiple times was commissioned as a part of the Kla Art public art festival organised by visual art organisation 32 Degrees East in Kampala, Uganda. The research project Networking New Opportunities for Artists in East Africa provided the funding for four of the commissioned works in the festival 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact This was a public facing event. For Jared, it was his first significant commission in Uganda. 
URL https://klaart.org/
 
Title Nabukenya Helen, Munno Mu Kabi 
Description Art artwork commissioned by arts organisation 32 Degrees Ugandan Arts Trust as a part of the public art festival Kla Art 2018. Helen worked with tailors in Kampala (as well as students from Newcastle University) to create this huge hanging installation in one of Kampala's markets 
Type Of Art Artwork 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact For Nabuyenka Helen, this was her first opportunity to create a major public artwork and to work collaboratively on a large scale project. 
URL https://klaart.org/
 
Title Wanakubobea Feelharmonic 
Description This exhibition of work by twelve East African artists (from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda) was commissioned as part of the project 'Networking New Opportunities for Artists in East Africa. Curated by Naijographia, members of the artists collective Maasai Mbili based in Kibera, the exhibition which was staged in April 2018 in the BIEA gallery in Nairobi. The exhibition coincided with the first NOFA workshop. The project then funded an edited version of the exhibition to tour to Kampala, Uganda during the Kla Art public art festival later that summer. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2018 
Impact The exhibition gave a platform for artists working in East Africa. For some of them, when the exhibition toured to Uganda it was their first opportunity to exhibit internationally. The curators, a team from Maasai Mbili produced a catalogue to accompany the exhibition which has been widely distributed. 
 
Description The research network 'Networking Opportunities for Artists in East Africa' identified a number of impediments to art professionals wishing to develop sustainable careers in the visual arts. Extended evidence-gathering has identified that a fundamental constraint to addressing many of the challenges artists face is a deficit in 'art writing' skills. This deficit is apparent at all levels in the visual art ecology and impacts in variety of ways, from a lack of confidence in preparing basic written material for self-promotion which can exclude or disadvantage many artists when trying to access professional opportunities, to the absence of a shared body of developed artistic critique. Not only does this inhibit artistic production, but it also constrains the role and capacity of the visual arts within the cultural economy. Balanced against this, new platforms including a new art magazine are emerging, and the enthusiasm, energy and will to initiate practical initiatives to assist development of artistic writing is evidence that the emergent generation of artistic writers and critics who are already identifying themselves as key future players in the creative economy, will respond enthusiastically to the challenge of developing a thriving visujal art ecology, and to opportunities offered to assist their professional development and make their voices heard.
Exploitation Route The participation of our Project Partners in this research has been critical and the intention of the project is that they should acquire the capacity to use the research findings to develop their core activities within Uganda and the broader East African region. This is already happening, for example in the activities of Project Partner 32 Degrees East, Ugandan Arts Trust who have enlarged their activities supporting art writing in East Africa, in the activities of Nairobi Contemporary who are publishing more magazines and drawing on the new expertise of the writers mentored under our projects and by colleagues at Makerere University who are leading on work packages in projects funded from Follow on Funding grants that have flowed from this original research (specifically in art writing, art exhibiting, art entrepreneurship and art curating).
At the level of individual participants recruited to the project via our open calls, the project commissioned a number of art writers to produce a piece of writing for publication. Many of these critical texts have now been published, for example in the art magazine Nairobi Contemporary and Start Journal and the writers are working on further texts for publication, from which they will receive a fee, contributing to their livelihood.
Our project partner 32 Degrees East, Ugandan Arts Trust has also produced and rolled out an artists' toolkit that aims to support artists wishing to produce written material to develop their careers.
All of this work fits with the ODA objectives set out in the grant application and brings direct benefits to practitioners working in DAC listed countries in East Africa.
Sectors Creative Economy

 
Description Our findings have been used to spark new partnerships with arts organisations in East Africa. They have been used to produce new writing for art publications in East Africa and to generate new project plans
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description Art and Writing Workshops
Geographic Reach Africa 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The participants in the workshops reported improvements in their capacity to contribute to the creative economy in Africa through their art writing activities. Stakeholders attending the workshops, such as museum curators noted the benefit of having better equipped writers within their field. Art Magazine editors reported an increase and improvements in the volume and quality of articles submitted for publication. Participants also reported that the formation of the network significantly benefited their professional practice.
 
Description Art and Work in East Africa: New Engagements in Art Curating
Amount £91,965 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/T007672/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2020 
End 01/2021
 
Description Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement
Amount £99,855 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/T007672/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 02/2020 
End 01/2021
 
Description 32 Degrees Ugangan Arts Trust 
Organisation 32 Degrees East Ugandan Arts Trust
Country Uganda 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We worked with 32 Degrees Ugandan Arts Trust on the delivery of two workshops in Uganda targeted at visual artists. We worked with them on the development of the public art project Kla Art 2018
Collaborator Contribution 32 Degrees Ugandan Arts Trust organised and delivered the workshops funded through the project. They organised and supported the artists creating the artworks delivered through the project.
Impact artworks, workshops,
Start Year 2017
 
Description Art and Curating 
Organisation Kampala Art Trust
Country Uganda 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We work with Kampala Art Trust to develop curating skills in Uganda
Collaborator Contribution Kampala Art Trust work with us to develop curating skills. They make their gallery available for the project, together with staff time and expertise
Impact exhibition plans
Start Year 2019
 
Description British Council 
Organisation British Council
Department East Africa Arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We developed a successful grant application through discussion with the British Council
Collaborator Contribution the British Council supported the development of the grant application and then participated in the workshop events.
Impact workshops, exhibitions, public commissions of artworks
Start Year 2017
 
Description Collaboration with 32 Degrees East, Ugandan Arts Trust 
Organisation 32 Degrees East Ugandan Arts Trust
Country Uganda 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution 32 Degrees East, Ugandan Arts Trust are a key partner on this project. We aim to establish all our partnerships on an equitable and sustainable basis. This means that the project is designed so that each partner leads from their particular strengths. We worked with 32 Degrees on two strands in this project. 1) The development of an 'artists' writing toolkit'. This aims to support writers who feel less confident in writing the basic material they need to develop their careers in the public arena. This includes CV writing skills, writing artist statements, grant applications, descriptions of their work etc. Working with stakeholders in the visual art community, we developed a plan for the toolkit. 2) 32 Degrees organised a number of workshops to support art writing at a more developed level. Workshop participants were commissioned to write a piece for publication, and were supported through the process of developing their writing though mentoring and sessions designed to support critical art writing
Collaborator Contribution Our partnerships are established on an equitable and sustainable basis. Each partner contributes from their area of expertise. 32 Degrees are well networked within the visual art ecology in East Africa. They reach out to artists, applying their policy which is rooted in equality of opportunity irrespective of gender, tribe, race and other protected characteristics. Because of this policy, and the strength of their networks, we were able to reach a wide and diverse range of participants. Many of our events took place at the 32 Degrees base in Kampala. 32 Degrees organised the events, and invited many of the speakers.
Impact An Artists Writing toolkit. Writing for publication Workshops Exhibitions and artworks
Start Year 2016
 
Description Collaboration with the British Institute in Eastern Africa 
Organisation British Institute in Eastern Africa
Country Kenya 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We have worked with the BIEA over a period of years. As part of the current project, we secured funding to recruit an RA who would be based with the BIEA. Her role was to support the project across all its activities. A high level of interaction between the PI, the RA at the BIEA and our other project partners, all conducted on an equal footing enabled the project to proceed successfully. The project is well integrated, with events organised at the BIEA base in Nairobi featuring speakers invited by our other project partners.
Collaborator Contribution The RA based at the BIEA was a key member of the project team - the only person working on a substantive FTE contract (and with mentoring and supervision provided by other staff at Newcastle University and the BIEA). As such, the BIEA led on many of the administrative strands of the project: creating calls for expressions of interest, collating replies, helping devise criteria by which participants should be selected and finally, collecting feedback from our participants. The RA also monitored the gender balance of our participants and helped implement the necessary measures to ensure the the project was ODA compliant.
Impact Workshops Art writing for publication Artworks and exhibitions
Start Year 2017
 
Description Makerere University. Networking New Opportunities for Artists in East Africa 
Organisation Makerere University
Country Uganda 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We co-developed the project bid working with academic staff from Makerere University and they have been key partners in project delivery, through workshops, artwork creation
Collaborator Contribution Makerere University have supported us in bid-writing and project development, and then in the delivery of project outcomes in multiple ways
Impact artworks, exhibitions, public talks, further funding, student collaborations, networks
Start Year 2008
 
Description Networking Opportunties for Artists in East Africa. British Institute in Eastern Africa 
Organisation British Institute in Eastern Africa
Country Kenya 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We worked with the BIEA on the organisation and delivery of a workshop and an exhibition as a part of the project 'Networking New Opportunities for Artists in East Africa
Collaborator Contribution The BIEA worked with us on the organisation and delivery of a workshop and exhibition as a part of the project 'Networking New Opportunities for Artists in East Africa'
Impact workshops, exhibition,
Start Year 2017
 
Description UCASDR Kampala 
Organisation Makerere University
Department College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology
Country Uganda 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We have worked with UCASDR on the workshops that were a key part of the research project 'Networking New Opportunities for Artists in East Africa'. We have also supported them in developing grant applications within Africa
Collaborator Contribution UCASDR have introduced us to artists and artists' networks in Kampala, they have organised workshops in which we have participated, they have introduced us to artisans working in the Kampala markets - with whom we have subsequently worked. They have participated in all of our events in East Africa and supported activities, particularly through introductions tot their networks, for example in the media.
Impact artworks, workshops, media coverage, networks
Start Year 2015
 
Description Art & Writing Workshop - BIEA 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This, the first workshop of our project engaged with art writers, artists and other stakeholders including publishers and curators from across East Africa. It was held at the British Institute in Eastern Africa, our partner organisation and included contributions from speakers from Africa, the US and Europe.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Art and Writing Workshop # 3 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This was the third and final workshop in the project. It took place at 32 Degrees East, Ugandan Arts Trust in Kampala, Uganda. The event was attended by the participating art writers in the project, the project mentors and other speakers and participants from Africa, the US and Europe.

The main participants at the workshops were those who had responded to our open call for art writers. We originally selected 12, as per our application, but because of the exceptional number of applicants (over 70), the quality of applications and some additional QR ODA compliant funding we received we were able to increase the number of participants to 19. All came from DAC countries, specifically: Kenya (8) Ethiopia (2) Uganda (6) Rwanda (1) Tanzania (2). In addition to these 'core' participants, the workshops were opened up to others, with a call made through the website and social media of our project partners. Numbers attending varied over the three days of the workshop. All attendees were East African nationals, most were Ugandans. Workshop presenters were from Kenya (2); South Africa (1). USA (1) UK (4) Uganda (4). The events were attended by team members from 32 Degrees (3, all Ugandan) and by the UK research team (2). The project also hired an RA from Kenya (1) who attended all events.

The workshop was concerned with developing sustainable careers for art professionals. The aim is to support the development of a cadre of professional art writers and support art magazines in East Africa. Participants were invited, through a competitive selection process, from across East Africa and included a diverse and representative group of art professionals. Anonymised data regarding the composition of the group has fed into further project activities and funding bids.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Art and Writing Workshop #2, Kampala 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our second workshop took place, and was primarily organised by our partner 32 Degrees East, Ugandan Arts Trust. The event was attended by art writers, artists and art professionals from across East Africa. Participants also included speakers from Africa, the US and Europe. The art writers attending brought examples of their work for publication. These were discussed at one-to-one and group sessions. An aim was to improve the writing so that it would be ready for publication in forthcoming editions of the art magazine Nairobi Contemporary and other platforms.

The main participants at the workshops were those who had responded to our open call for art writers. We originally selected 12, as per our application, but because of the exceptional number of applicants (over 70), the quality of applications and some additional QR ODA compliant funding we received we were able to increase the number of participants to 19. All came from DAC countries, specifically: Kenya (8) Ethiopia (2) Uganda (6) Rwanda (1) Tanzania (2). In addition to these 'core' participants, the workshops were opened up to others, with a call made through the website and social media of our project partners. Numbers attending varied over the three days of the workshop. All attendees were East African nationals, most were Ugandans. Workshop presenters were from Kenya (2); South Africa (1). USA (1) UK (4) Uganda (4). The events were attended by team members from 32 Degrees (3, all Ugandan) and by the UK research team (2). The project also hired an RA from Kenya (1) who attended all events.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Gender Equality in International Development workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact A presentation on gender equality statements in the context of GCRF/ODA projects at Durham University
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Workshop for artists and art professionals. Workshop 1 held at the British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The first of a set of workshops held in East Africa where visual art professionals were invited to discuss the 'blocks' they face in developing sustainable careers as artists and propose possible solutions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Workshop for artists and art professionals. Workshop 2 held at 32 degrees, Ugandan Art Trust, Kampala, Uganda 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Over 50 visual art professionals working across East Africa (participants came from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, DRC, South Sudan) and the UK joined the workshop to discuss the obstacles facing art professionals in East Africa and propose solutions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Workshop for artists and art professionals. Workshop 3 held at 32 degrees, Ugandan Art Trust, Kampala, Uganda 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The third of three workshops held in East Africa where invited participants discussed the 'blocks' facing visual art professionals in their attempts to develop sustainable careers in the visual arts and propose possible solutions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018