By Margaretta wa Gacheru (posted 6 November 2019 for 8.11.19)
Mashujaa celebrations came and went in a single day. But in all the fanfare and recognition of unsung heroes, there was one group that got left out. It was the Cultural Heroes, men and women who had contributed immensely to our contemporary culture.
Sadly, culture is something like the air you breathe. You take it for granted but life would be difficult and dull without it.
But thanks to a project initiated more than six months ago, a Cultural Heroes Campaign got launched last May. The occasion coincided with a ‘World Day for Cultural Diversity’ which was established by UNESCO.
Organized under a British Council program called ‘Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth’, the BC collaborated with Mount Kenya University, Book Bunk Trust, African Digital Heritage and Heva Fund.
Together, they selected judges, established criteria for selecting the finalists and conducted a survey, asking a wide range of cultural organizations to pick the Kenyan creatives that they felt fulfilled the criteria and fit into any one of seven specified categories of culture. The judges included Joy Mboya, Prof Kimani Njogu, Dr Kiprop Lagat, Dr Mbugua wa Mungai, Floice Mukabana, Prof Kennedy Mutunda and Thomas Mwiraria.
Dr. Kimani Njogu
Dr. Kimani Njogu
Then, all of this was collated by Gong Communications, an independent organization that also did its own desk research of Kenyan and international media to add its input into the process.
The categories included were Food, Fashion, Film, Music, Theatre, Visual arts and a Special Mention category for creatives whose contribution didn’t quite fit into any one of the other seven.
And the criteria included everything from Creativity, Originality, Impact both here and beyond Kenya, Advocacy, Participation in Industry and Legacy.
The ‘finalists’ were actually named on Mashujaa Day, but only on the social media pages of the British Council, including its website.
There was also a brief photographic exhibition of the seven winners up McMillan Library which ran from 30th October to Monday, 4th November. But after all that effort, one imagines there should have been a bit more fanfare given to the cultural heroes finally selected.
The Seven included Sauti Sol for Music, Wanuri Kahiu for Film, Kioko Mwitiki for Visual Arts, the late Francis Imbuga for Theatre, Ann McCreath for Fashion and Chef Ali Mandhry for Food. The Special Mentions went to Muthoni Garland, founder of Storymoja Publishers and Mufasa the Poet.
Hopefully, Cultural Heroes will be included in Mashujaa celebrations next year.Joy Mboya, one of the Judges