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Young artists using talents to make a living

Art is a form of expression by human beings in a skillful way that entails creativity through the use of music, sculpture, painting, drawing, and many more.

Just like any other area of modern life, art has evolved over time, with the earliest forms of art dating back to over 40,000 years ago, according to archaeologists.

In the current generation, many young people are engaged in artistic work either as a hobby or on a commercial scale in order to earn a living.

According to a report by the Kenya Federation of Employers, approximately one million youths enter the labour market every year with no skills or college education, with the youth unemployment rate standing at 67 per cent. The report indicates that nearly three million young people are not engaged in any form of employment.

The high crime rate has been attributed to a lack of jobs, leading the youth to resort to other means to survive, but some have also taken matters into their own hands and decided to go into self-employment, with some taking up art as a form of employment to make ends meet.

It’s for this reason that the government, through the Ministry of Youth Affairs, the Arts, and Sports, launched the Talanta Hela project in February this year, which is a flagship plan to monetise talents in sports and the creative industry.

The project is in line with the government’s bottom-up economic transformation agenda and aims to identify, recruit, nurture, market, and monetise talent.

The project is also set to work with the education system to identify schools that will act as academies and nurture certain sports and other talents.

According to the Draft 2023 Budget Policy Statement released in January this year, the Talanta Hela project is in line with President William Ruto’s commitment to the bottom-up approach toward the growth of football and other sports and talents at the grassroots level.

Meet Raymond Dudi, 27, who has decided to use his talent to make a living. He explains that his talent in drawing has given him a new lease of life and has enabled him to meet his daily needs just by exerting his creative mind.

Dudi, who also goes by the nickname Kashfa in the artistic world, says that he has been doing art for the last six years, and he does not regret any bit of it.

We meet him in his infinity studios located in the Kayole area of Naivasha, where he is currently working on several pieces of art drawings on canvas. He explains that his journey as an artist was motivated by the urge to be independent and self-employed after he discovered while in primary school that he had a talent in this area.

According to Dudi, art has enabled him to avoid indulging in alcohol and substance abuse as he spends most of his time drawing and painting. He says that the majority of his former friends who engaged in vices such as drug abuse and crime due to their joblessness have ended up ruining their lives, despite some having attained college education.

Dudi, a graduate from the school of fine arts at Kenyatta University, adds that apart from doing canvas drawing and graffiti, he also engages in painting, which forms the bulk of his work because of the ease of availability of such jobs. With many structures coming up, demand for painters is huge, and this has prompted him to tap into the opportunity, which has greatly boosted his venture.

On a good month, Dudi earns an average of Sh50,000, which enables him to foot his bills with plans to expand his art studio through savings from the proceeds of his talent.

David Muchiri, alias Wes, Dudi’s partner at Infinity Studios, which was launched in 2021, explains that this was the best decision they ever made to venture into art. Muchiri tells us that as a result of many youths being idle in the neighbourhood, they took it upon themselves to train talented individuals who are interested in learning the art of drawing and painting.

He adds that the programme does not only entail training but also market linkages, where they go with the trainees to the field and help them learn practically while creating connections for job opportunities through exposure to potential clientele.

The duo, early in the year, in collaboration with the “rangi za east” festival, started a beautification project within Kayole that involved graphite drawings on walls and apartments within the estate. This project, according to Wes, was an eye-opener to aspiring artists from the area who have been thronging their studio in order to learn more about art.

He adds that the project increased the visibility of their brand, opening more doors of opportunities. Muchiri goes further to highlight the achievements they have had so far since their clientele base stretches far and wide, beyond Naivasha.

Infinity Studios has been privileged to trade their craft in major places in the country; as Kashfa reveals, they are behind the amazing graffiti and paint works at Uhuru Gardens and the United Nations (UN) official residence in Runda, Nairobi.

However, each success story comes with its fair share of challenges. Among the obstacles that the duo face on a daily basis is the high cost of paint, which they urge the government to look into in order to increase their profit margins at the end of the day.

Muchiri urges more youth to join the art sector as it creates jobs instead of relying on white collar opportunities, which are limited. He acknowledges that art is a male-dominated space, calling upon more women to venture into the industry.

By Mabel Keya – Shikuku

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