Art in Kenya is still widely perceived as a male-dominated field. This despite women being integral to the institution of art. Women are involved in making art as creators and innovators of new forms of artistic expression,sources of inspiration etc. Still many of us cannot name as many or half as many female artists in Kenya.
In Kenya, many female artists face challenges due to gender biases. Some of the challenges include training, selling their work and gaining recognition. Pawa 254, a creative hub that incubates programs and empowers creatives that produce art for social impact will be hosting a street art festival on December 18 2016. In the days leading upto the festival they've been holding twitter chats with fans. On one of the chats they asked their fans about the place of women in art.
The biggest gap in the creative industry is lack of female artists.
Valarie Ogutu @valarie_ogutu
...there arefew women who are given the needed attention for their work probably leading to few inspirations for other women
The Art scene will remain a bush unless afew of us make it a garden. Women are known for such order
Women are booming in the art industry..I believe that the Kenyan art scene is very conducive :)
Female artists continue to be underrepresented in the major exhibitions.Curators say it's because they simply don't get art from women. Gennevive, a painter in Nairobi disagrees. "Work by female artists has been traditionally overlooked by art establishments,"she says. She is among the artists who will be showing their art at the festival.
As Africa‘s wealth of artistic talent is finally getting the recognition and attention it deserves we must acknowledge that there are female artists creating the art too.
It's a sad reality that when big brands are commissioning art work,whether paintings or photos, more often than not a male artist will get the gig.
One of the ways to support female artists is to give these artists massive exposure,visibility and the opportunities for both them and their works to garner useful publicity both within and outside the art community. Pawa254 hopes to play a part in highlighting female artists during this year's street festival.
There are other institutions that are trying to solve challenges such as the lack of visibility for female artists in Kenya, the scarcity of art education and a need for art spaces etc. One such institution is Kuona Trust. Kuona mentors artists giving them skills and opportunities to advance themselves whilst increasing the profile and role of visual arts in Kenya. It provides support and resources to artists so they can make great art. Some of the artists listed with Kuona include less known but talented Rosemary Ahono, a portrait painter. Her colourful compositions and paintings of mostly human figures on a cultural setting are breath-taking.
Another way to show support would be to buy art from female artists. Unfortunately Kenyans are not huge consumers of art but even when they do buy, they will buy from well known artists who are male. While there is nothing wrong with that, female artists are left out. Nairobi is blessed to have several art galleries. The galleries do host works from female artists, though few. I would urge Kenyans to visit such galleries and be blown away by female artists.
Art's appeal cuts across gender, it's high time the opportunities in the art world finds both sexes equally.