BANKING ON KENYAN ART
By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted November 29, 2017)
Guaranty Trust Bank has only been in Kenya for the last four years. And Ibukun Obegaike has only been Managing Director of GTB in Kenya for the past two and a half years.
But that didn’t stop the Nigeria-born MD from putting into practice one of her bank’s top Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policies which is promotion of African arts both locally and internationally.
“From the very beginning, our bank has been supportive of the arts,” said Ms Odegbaike in an exclusive interview with BD. She recalls that when GTB’s head office in Lagos was initially opened in 1991, one of its attractions was the huge painting by a leading Nigerian artist that dazzled the clients as they walked in the front door.
Art, she says, is one of those intangible items that contributes to a more people-friendly atmosphere in the bank. It also promotes greater awareness of the visual arts.
To illustrate how much her bank appreciates African art, not only in Nigeria but also in Kenya, GTB (Kenya) Ltd. sponsored an evening exhibition of contemporary East African art at the Villa Rosa Kempinski Hotel yesterday.
Curated by William Ndwega’s Little Art Gallery, there were twelve artists whose works were on display last night.
They included Michael Soi, Patrick Kinuthia, Peter Elungat, Anne Mwiti, Michael Musyoka, Yassir Ali, Emily Odongo, Haji Chilonga, Joshua Mainga, Douglas Musyoke, Coster Ojwang and Jjuuko Hoods.
The exhibition was only for one night, but Ms. Odegbaike says the Kempinski show is simply the first step in GTB’s support of the arts in Kenya.
“Remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step,” she said, implying there were more steps the bank intended to take with local artists.
The second step is likely to be the introduction of Kenyan artists to GTB’s online African art platform.
The ‘Art 635’ virtual gallery was only launched in October 2017. But already it’s enabling mainly Nigerian artists to access online audiences and markets.
“We have another online market hub which will enable artists to sell their work more easily,” she added.
What’s remarkable about the Nigerian-born bank is that it not only has a solid commitment to creating a service-oriented culture in its banking system. It also sees the arts as playing an integral role in advancing that service-orientation.
What’s equally encouraging is that Art 635 invites all African artists to join the online gallery. So that “first step” taken last night could very well lead to greater regional cooperation and appreciation of East African art.