A team of artists in Kisumu have set out to change the perception of the community to appreciate visual arts as a talent and a stable source of income.
To this end, the team of young budding artists who are based at Mama Grace Onyango Social Center in Kisumu City has immensely contributed to the formation of an art gallery at the facility which has continued to attract people from all walks of life.
The head of Mama Grace Visual Artist Self-help group Joseph Okello, aka ‘Sejo’, confided to KNA that the community is yet to fully embrace visual arts as a career and a steady source of income rather than a hobby.
Okello said that as artists they were keen to capitalize on the available opportunities to sensitize local residents to get involved either as individuals or groups to take this huge potential to the next level by way of engaging more youth who have been sensitized on the importance of arts.
“We want to use the available opportunities to change the mindset of our people to not only embrace visual arts but take it upon themselves to educate the local populace on its vast potential,” he emphasized.
To attract the market and give the community a chance to view and appreciate art, they are holding exhibitions that have been attracting many people of all ages, most of who are apparently changing their view on visual arts.
“We are looking forward to holding art exhibitions monthly in the region which will also bring together our colleagues from across the country. Apart from the exhibitions we have an art gallery at the hall, which we use as our workspace and for displays,” Okello added.
The artworks whose costs range from Sh3, 000 to 30,000 consist of portraits of prominent personalities from the Western Kenya region, African culture and those focused on peaceful co-existence.
“We have 6 artists working in the gallery during exhibitions, which we plan to hold at the end of every month where we will invite other artists from across the region to showcase their artworks,” he said.
Okello pointed out that the exhibitions will help boost the arts industry in the region where they have had to contend with numerous challenges related to finding ready market for the artworks.
“Although the society has not learnt to fully appreciate arts, majority admire the works but are not willing to spend a reasonable amount of money on the unique art pieces yet the same has been appreciated by foreigners as priceless,” he argued.
As a result of this, Okello sent a passionate appeal to the government to take a leading role in sensitizing the public through persistent advocacy on fine arts, clay arts, visual arts among others which have great employment opportunities for the young people.
“We are grateful to Kisumu County Government for allocating us space though we need a little more including financial support to help us purchase raw materials that have proved quite expensive,” Okello appealed.
His colleague, Ochieng’ Okingi, a member of the art gallery and a visual artist for over 20 years, said getting a space at the center was a big boost to the art industry in the region.
Okingi revealed that in the past they had to do roadside shows and displays as a way of freelancing in order to be recognized and have the artworks sold.
“The center hosts so many events and conferences, through which we have been able to reach a large audience,” he disclosed.
The artist proposed that the government should work closely with the Ministry of Education to introduce visual arts in the curriculum so that children can start learning and appreciating it from a tender age.
By rolling out mentorship programs for school-going children, he said, they have been able to train several students into arts and educate parents on allowing children to express themselves through arts and even pursue arts as a career.
Okingi called upon the Ministry of Sports, Culture, and Heritage together with Kenya National Visual Arts Association (KNVA) to come up with policies that will protect visual artists from plagiarism and copyright infringements.
“The government can also organize big exhibitions which will boost us and promote our work locally and globally,” he said.
Mama Grace Onyango Social Center Manager, Obat Masira, applauded the work being done by the young artists and their dedication to ensuring the creation of employment opportunities for the ever-growing number of young people in the country.
Obat appealed to the youths across the county to fully utilize the facility and available raw materials apart from branding their artwork going into the future.
He also urged local residents and well-wishers to come out in support of the noble initiative by the young artists in Kisumu by way of purchasing and sponsoring their work.
“If we support the artists, we help to nurture, create and expose their talents as one way of productively engaging them and appreciating their hard work,” he argued.
By Evangeline Mola and Lorine Awino