art and community

Creating a community around art and expression

Whenever we hear of a blogger, an activist, a musician or a film artist has been roughed up, locked up or mistreated, we never fail to see an expected outpouring of outrage from the online community as well as the supporters of those various artists. There is always a group of people who are willing to agitate for their well-being and are on the front-line to ensure these artists’ freedoms are not curtailed. Besides that, they form the core group of supporters for a creative’s work and ensure that they spread the ideals of these works in their own personal ways.

Whether it is buying a book, attending a film show or listening to a podcast, having a vibrant community of active doers is so important to a creative. The progress of a creative’s work is normally judged by the feedback of their audience. Suffice it to say, a lot of the work put in by a creative is meant to endear them to their audience and grow a support system – a small percentage of the gratification goes to oneself, ultimately.

Art and community go hand in hand; while art is a fount of inspiration and is considered to be the pinnacle of community development, community appreciates and grows expression of art through promotion, creating awareness, empowering various forms of art and forming discussion around improving expression of art.

A sense of oneness gives purpose to creative work

Our country lags behind in investing properly in the creative sector. While we can argue that Kenya has a cesspool of potential creative output that is able to improve the economy, there is still a lot that needs to be done in terms of financing, licensing and policy changes. We suffer from a government that views the creative sector under the microscope of vile intent and obscenity rather than a modernized way of creative expression and potential to bolster income.

Art and community go hand in hand

Avid Conquest

A lot can be said about the government’s indifferent stance on the creative industry. However, scaling it down to the community and individual level, it becomes clear that there are steps that can be taken to create a self-understanding and supportive community around how our art is expressed.

Show up

Build a culture of supporting creative work around you. Be it listening to a friend’s song or sharing a blog you just read, these seemingly minuscule things can mean a lot to the creative.

Pay when possible

This applies in fashion, songs, writing, film or architectural works. There is a lot of heavy lifting that goes on behind-the-scenes when it comes to furnishing such works, especially on a professional scale. Make sure you are mindful enough to part with your money and pay for these services when they are put on sale.

Spark discussion

The glaring problem we have in our country regarding the creative sector is that our talk is cheap. We may address the shortcomings of the creative industries such as film or music but the agitation rests at that point. We know that the Government of Kenya is aware of the plight of creatives in this country, ranging from the politicization of creative work to brutal censorship and unlawful arrests. We have seen the rise and fall of influential and creative-driven works from films such as Cobra Squad to musical bands such as Elani, yet we fail to agitate for better policies that handle the creative output of our country.

It is not enough to sit down and talk about it and then go back to the slow slog of waiting for the government to do something. Creatives are often viewed as liberal tacticians against the government and everything it stands for. To offset this perspective, why not include the community? Why can’t we stand together with our creatives when they agitate for these changes? Why can’t we push for an enabling environment for our artists?

Don’t gas mediocrity

Inasmuch as creatives are encouraged to express themselves fully, this should not afford them room for mediocre work. It would be much better if you did not do it rather than doing it in a bland and off-color way and then presenting it to the world. On the other hand, the community should be quick to offer criticisms and/or advice as they portray a different point of view from that of the creative.

On this note, I encourage the community members to call out the creatives on issues that they deem are unhealthy or are not beneficial to them. I feel strongly that our heroes’ downfalls are usually laid bare for us to see and yet we lack the courage to steer them back on track. We wait until it is too late to do anything and their stories are the next hottest headline on the evening news. The community ought to be the rod that tames creatives when they sway dangerously close to self-sabotage.

Active involvement

Creatives find inspiration from almost everywhere. Sometimes, though, they can hit a snag and often this period of stagnation is referred to as a creative block. Mental fatigue as well as lack of inspiration can flare up creative blocks and stymie a creative from pursuing their work.

During these times, one can offer to be a source of encouragement and positivity to the creative. I have had friends who message me asking me why a blog post is long overdue or advising me on how I can approach a subject using a better angle. These interactions are not to be taken for granted. The community has a responsibility to pick up the creatives when they are stuck low on motivation.

Cultivating a culture of inter-community connections with creatives may be the first step we take to push for a serious campaign in raising awareness in the creative industry in Kenya. As emphasized earlier, art is an important facet in culture and I believe it should be at the center of growing our international influence and promoting local culture to the global stage.

We cannot achieve this without cooperation at the community level and enlightenment at the individual level. The sooner it is realized that art continues to play a part in telling our stories and maintaining our ability to create and share these stories, then the faster it should take us to understand the importance of supporting our local creatives and creating a sense of oneness around art and its expression.


Author’s note

The podcast I have been listening to this week is The Sandwich Podcast. A chilled-out podcast full of humor and relevant topics that endear themselves to the Kenyan youth. Make sure you check it out.

Avid Conquest is now open to collaborative writing. Feel free to contact the author for more inquiries.



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One response to “Creating a community around art and expression”

  1. aliveintime Avatar

    This post speaks volumes…, community is indeed an important aspect of the creative field and support really does mean a lot and is required. Also, the Sandwich Podcast is quite entertaining to say the least!

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