African Digital Art makes it happen for Nairobi Creatives & Designers

Image courtesy of African Digital Art 

Last evening, the iHub was buzzing again, this time with creative minds, designers, art enthusiasts and others meeting up under the theme ‘Connect, Share, Collaborate‘ organised by African Digital Art (ADA). ADA is an online forum started by one Ms. Jepchumba who prides herself as digital artist. It prides itself as ‘an online collective, creative space where digital artists, enthusiasts and professionals can seek inspiration, showcase thier artistry and conect with emerging artists. ADA’s team includes Barbara Muriungi who acts as the editor. Contributors include Anthony Dert, Benjo Mouanga, Adisa Abeba and our very own Mark Kaigwa ( yes besides social media, he’s a creative, curator, director and event organiser par excellence)!

The session was divided into 2 with the first part having presentations and the second part had the panel session with tried and tested hands in the design industry in the country:
Norman Mageto, a creative multimedia student at the Limkokwing University -Malaysia. He started off with a sample video of some of his work thus far, though a power outage somehow took some of the wind off his sails and he had to run through his remaining presentation. His main emphasis was on the need to get some education in design(where possible), more professionalism and originality from Kenyan multi-media designers.
Fady Rostrom – of The Ark and Bonk came on and one of his first comments was that, if you go to school, you’ll be rich and if you are self-taught, you’ll be very rich. Crazy you might label him but he gave what was easily the best presentation. Starting with some slides about why designers and creatives should rise to the occasion, he went on to preview some of the ground-breaking designs they have made and have had a major impact in the industry.
Laced with funny sketches ( such as the joke about a banker, engineer and a designer at a bar and the latter not being able to pick up ladies cos of lack of professional look and self-respect) and also critiquing the ‘ agency think’. This is where there is lots of bureaucracy and routine that makes the essence of creativity get lost by the time the client(s) have their brief done and presented. He also termed PR gurus as having changed from positively representing their brands to more of propaganda and gate-keeping.

Image courtesy of 

Hawa Essuman – formerly an actor but currently a film director, who did Soul Boy a film set in the Kibera slums and tells of stories that come from the community around this slum. From the fantasies to myths and beliefs that partly represent this urban folklore that has been largely demonised and viewed as poor and lacking in identity. Though she struggled to present her point of view, by and large, the learnings were that Kenya (and Africa) needs to tell her stories as best as they can. This is illustrated by the fact Soul Boy is a Swahili movie which seeks to tell a local story and appeal to the local audience ( though it seems to be attracting more foreign attention instead winning an award at the Gotenborg International Film Festival in Sweden).

The second session had a panel of among others, Jim Chuchu (of JustABand)-photographer & director, Charles Ndungu -designer of animated features, Kiboko- an illustrator and designer, Mbithi – videographer and director, PointBlank (Emmanuel Nyakwada), Rachel – activist and organiser of the Kuweni Serious events, Fady and Hawa.

ADA Panel Session – From left, Mbithi, Kiboko, Hawah, Jim Chuchu (hidden), Charles Ndungu, Fady, Point Blank & Rachel – 20th January 2011 @ & Image by  iHubNairobi

Taking different issues relating to design work such as if its necessary to have any form of formal training in design, regular sources of inspiration and the experiences and lessons learnt in the industry. There was also a call for the need to remain authentic and not lose your essence especially when working commercially. It was also noted that designers need to stand their own ground and not get waived into producing mediocre works due to client demands.
Online visibility and networking was also advised but this should not be the only form of platform to preview and sell or seek jobs. Physical and actual visits to potential clients and artists/designers remain the most potent of getting your work reviewed and appreciated.
Finally as the theme of the session was titled, there is need for designers, people in the creative world to work together and collaborate in projects, be they for commercial purposes, or non-profits works. It was also announced that this meet-up shall be followed up monthly meet-ups which shall be on every 3rd Tuesday of the month.
There shall also be sessions for critiquing works which shall be on every 1st Tuesday of the month at the iHub. Designers, creatives, film producers and art enthusiasts were also asked to register as members of the iHub when the next window is available.

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