Over the last few months as part of our #CultureGrows programme here in Kenya, we’ve been asking ‘Who’s your Cultural Hero?’. This is in recognition of the fact that we all source our creative and cultural inspiration and ideas from different people and various influences. The majority of the 519 responses to our online survey earlier in the year told us that parents and grandparents were the most influential cultural sources in people’s lives.
So that got us thinking more broadly about the many cultural heroes in Kenya. So, last May as World Day for Cultural Diversity was celebrated globally, we launched our own campaign to recognise and appreciate those figures who have played a vital role in inspiring others about culture and in promoting and preserving Kenya’s rich cultural heritage.
Following weeks of desk research, canvassing views online and amongst programme partners (Book Bunk Trust, Mount Kenya University, African Digital Heritage and Heva) and compiling a shortlist, our wonderful judging panel got together to begin their deliberations.
We also engaged numerous culture associations and asked them to nominate people they think are cultural heroes within their sectors. These associations we contacted are: Riverwood Ensemble, Kenya Musicians Union, Kenya Scriptwriters Guild, Kenya Film and TV Professionals Association, Performers Rights Association of Kenya, Orature Collective (storytelling), Theatre Arts Practitioners Association, Kuona Arts Collective (visual arts), Music in Africa and The Arts Canvas (Theatre).
- Prof. Kimani Njogu- Director, Twaweza Communications in Nairobi, Kenya
- Dr. Kiprop Lagat- Director, Department of Culture, Ministry of Sports, Culture and Heritage in Kenya
- Dr. Mbugua wa Mungai- Senior Lecturer and former Chairman of the Department of Literature Department at Kenyatta University in Nairobi Kenya.
- Prof. Kennedy K. Mutundu (PhD)- Dean, School of Social Sciences, Mount Kenya University in Nairobi, Kenya,
- Floice Mukabana- Ag. CEO, Kenya Export Promotion and Branding Agency (KEPROBA)
- Thomas Mwiraria- Storyteller, Kenyan rights Advocate, Journo Eco-Warrior Awardee, AYA Nominee Pakati (AFLI) Fellow, YALI Fellow
- Joy Mboya- Executive Director at the GoDown Art Centre in Nairobi, Kenya
They observed set criteria such as the nominee’s efforts in raising awareness about the importance of cultural heritage and the need to preserve Kenya’s cultural heritage, their contribution to job creation among young people and how each has shared Kenya’s cultural heritage through their work both locally or globally.
Today, as Kenya marks Mashujaa Day (Swahili for Heroes’ Day) - a public holiday celebrated in Kenya to honour all Kenyans who have contributed towards the struggle for Kenya's independence – we’re delighted to announce those who have been recognised as cultural heroes by our esteemed judging panel.
- Film Category - Wanuri Kahiu
- Food Category - Chef Ali Mandhry
- Visual Arts Category - Kioko Mwitiki
- Fashion Category - Ann McCreath
- Music Category - Sauti Sol
- Theatre Arts Category - the late Francis Imbuga
- Special Mention: Mufasa the Poet and Muthoni Garland
A big thank you to Marcus Olang who has taken some stunning images of the finalists which can be viewed in an open exhibition at the McMillan Memorial Library in Nairobi from 31st October to 4th November.