Kenya: supporting the rights of artists

Kenya National Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa organized a two-day capacity building workshop on the 1980 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist on 11 and 12 October 2018 in Nairobi.

Following the Global Survey that was launched by UNESCO in June 2018 questioning Member States on actions they have taken to implement the UNESCO 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist, the Kenyan National Commission for UNESCO organized an awareness-raising and capacity building workshop in order to consult key stakeholders on Kenya’s response to the global survey, which is due for submission on 23 November 2018, and to discuss the need for the development of a national legislation on the Status of the Artist in Kenya.

The 1980 Recommendation calls upon governments to improve the professional, social and economic status of artists through the implementation of policies and measures related to training, social security, employment, income and tax conditions, mobility, and freedom of expression. The 2018 Global Survey focuses on three thematic areas: culture in the digital environment, preferential treatment of artists (including transnational mobility of artist and flow of artistic goods and services), and human rights and fundamental freedoms (including social and economic rights, artistic freedom and gender equality). The findings of the survey will be presented by the UNESCO Director-General to the 40th session of the General Conference in Autumn 2019.

The Kenya workshop involved 65 participants, including artists, cultural and creative entrepreneurs, NGOs, cultural institutions, creative arts departments from various Kenyan universities, media as well as representatives from various counties, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage. UNESCO also supported the participation of a representative of the Ministry of Arts and Culture of Mauritius to share their experience over the past five years developing legislation on the Status of the Artist in Mauritius.

The opening ceremony of the workshop included an acoustic guitar performance of the song “Asante” by the singer and songwriter MUTINDA (Music Uniting Tribes in Neutral Delightful Ambiance) from Machakos County. The workshop was animated by other cultural performances throughout the two days, including: an original poem entitled “UNESCO”, which was recited by Ms. Njoki Karanja; a song and dance by Ms. Betty Kiramatsho Tago from Narok County; a song by Simor music, a musician from Nakuru County; and a recitation of “The Forever Tree” by Wangari the Storyteller.

Ms. Karalyn Monteil, Culture Programme Specialist at the UNESCO Regional Office for Eastern Africa, gave a presentation on the UNESCO 2005 Convention for the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions and its synergies with the UNESCO 1980 Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist. She also presented the application procedure for the UNESCO International Fund for Cultural Diversity (IFCD) and the new U40 Empowered: UNESCO-Sabrina Ho initiative for women in the digital creative industries. Afterwards, Ms. Emily Njeru from the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO unpacked the 1980 Recommendation in relation the current status of the cultural and creative industries in Kenya. She highlighted the need to mobilize artists into networks, to have more spaces for creation and the arts, for mentoring and for registering artworks and increasing copyright protection.

Mr. John Njogu, the legal officer from the Ministry of Sports and Heritage Department of Culture and Arts, reviewed the policy and legal frameworks in Kenya as well as the Ministry’s programmes and their implementation. Professor Kimani NJOGU, Chairperson of the Creative Economy Working Group, gave a presentation on the current operating environment of artists and creators in Kenya.
During his presentation, he lamented the slow process in adopting the Culture Policy for Kenya as well as the lack of an adequate Film Bill. He also regretted that Kenya does not have a culture where we are consuming local culture. 
Prof Njogu suggested easier measures could be put in place to facilitate permits for artists. He called for the creation of a National Culture Council to focus on the needs of artists in Kenya. Lastly, he announced the creation of a new web portal to share information on the creative economy in Kenya:


Capacity Building Workshop on the 1980 UNESCO Recommendation concerning the Status of the Artist

The second day of the workshop included examples of best practices from African countries as well as from various counties participating in the workshop. Mr. Rishi Ramnauth from the Ministry of Arts and Culture of Mauritius, shared his country’s experience developing a national legislation on the Status of the Artist over the past five years. He shared the impetus of “Creative Mauritius - Vision 2025”, a white paper on the Arts and Culture Sector in Mauritius, and noted that with government commitment, the process of creating a legislation became easy. He explained the benefit of ensuring the division of roles and responsibilities in the process undertaken by Mauritius, including the creation of a Task Group.

Academics from various universities in Kenya, including Dr. Nathan Asiago, a film professor from Multimedia University, Dr. Fred Mbogo, a Theatre and film professor from the Technical University of Kenya, and Dr. Zipporah Okota, a theatre professor from the Department of Film and Theatre at Kenyatta University, shared insights on the training and development of professional artists in Kenya.

Lastly, participants from Nakuru and Machakos Counties shared their experiences organizing artists to work with government counterparts for the development of the culture sector.

The workshop concluded with thematic group discussions on opportunities and challenges concerning: digital technology and the arts, devolution of arts and culture, current legal and policy frameworks, artistic freedom and social protection of the artist, training and development, and mobility of artists.

The question and answer sessions were very active throughout the workshop, and the participants succeeded in voicing their concerns and ambitions for improving the status of the artists in Kenya.