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Danish Culture and Development Programme launches in Kenya

05.05.2015  08:07
As a contribution to Kenya's efforts for building a unifying cultural identity, Denmark increases its support to the culture sector. Peaceful development in Kenya can be enhanced by art, culture and creative industries, says Denmark's Ambassador to Kenya, Mr. Geert Aagaard Andersen

The Danish Ambassador in Nairobi, Mr. Geert Aagaard Andersen, is a veteran when it comes to Danish engagement in Africa. The Ambassador has many years of experience from embassies in Uganda and Kenya and chief positions in the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Development, peace and reconciliation is one of his key areas of expertise. In 2010, Mr. Geert Aagaard Andersen was appointed Denmark’s Ambassador in Kenya. When he first came to Kenya, the consequences of the post-election violence in 2007/2008 and the political focus on ethnicity was main hindrances to peaceful coexistence in Kenya.

According to Geert Aagaard Andersen, contemporary art and culture is a unifying force that goes beyond ethnicity.
“Contemporary Kenyan culture has the ability to contribute to peaceful development, where political focus on ethnicity is omitted in favor of unifying cultural expressions. Kenya needs contemporary artists to identify themselves with,” says Geert Aagard Andersen. Monday the 4th of May, the Ambassador hosted a launch at his residence to celebrate the intensification of Denmark’s engagement in art, culture and creative industries in Kenya.  
Culture makes people proud
The current debate about the Kenya Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2015 point to the same conclusions as the Danish Ambassador. Kenyan artists have criticized that nobody have cared to ensure proper Kenyan representation at the Biennale. It was then decided to cancel Kenya’s 2015 contribution to the Venice Biennale.

“Continuous development of contemporary Kenyan art is important. Art is an integral element of building a country’s identity. There has been a tendency towards preoccupation with a pre-colonial past, where ethnicity defines the artistic expressions. Just like an uncritical takeover of Western mainstream music, this does not release the potential of Kenyan contemporary culture,” says Geert Aagard Andersen. He therefore warmly welcomes contemporary Kenyan artists’ contribution to strengthening a unifying Kenyan identity.

“Culture makes people proud of their country and give them a reason to contribute to their development,” says the Danish Ambassador.

By heart, he knows a long row of Kenyan artists, writers and musicians who have contributed significantly to developing Kenya’s cultural life on its own premises. 
Creative industries piggybacking on the IT-boom
The booming growth in the Kenyan IT-sector is a vehicle for further development of the emerging cultural and creative industries in Kenya. And Kenya is one of the markets that Danish investors are currently exploring.

“At the Danish Embassy, we are developing our commercial engagement in Kenya as a supplement to traditional development cooperation. New Danish firms and tourists are travelling to Kenya, and they see for themselves that Kenya has a lot to offer in terms of cultural and creative resources. The potential for exporting Kenyan culture is growing significantly,” says Geert Aagaard Andersen.      

The new Danish-supported culture programme intensifies the efforts for further acceleration of the growth of the creative economy that is now counting for 5 % of national GDP. Therefore Denmark has chosen to support analysis of the sector to harvest data and knowledge to focus the efforts for getting at 10 % of GDP. The digital boom in Kenya is already a contributor to the success for cultural and creative industries, and new app-technology will with support from Denmark enhance accessibility to literature from all over the country.

“The focus on creative economy in Danish support brings wider perspectives and a move towards increased economic sustainability and job opportunities in the culture sector,” says Geert Aagaard Andersen.

After the official programme launch at the Ambassador’s residence, activities and projects will be roling out in six counties: Kisumu, Nakuru, Nyeri, Machakos, Mombasa, and Nairobi.

Kenyan Poets Lounge : A network for young Kenyan poets. Kenyan Poets Lounge is the arranger of Fatuma’s Voice that take place once a month in Nairobi.
Docubox (EADFF) : A filmmakers’ space in Nairobi, where filmmakers receive training and funding to produce quality documentaries. Docubox is hosting a network of East African documentary filmmakers and develop audiences for documentary films based on stories that reflect the diversity of East Africa.
Kwani Trust : A hub for creative writing in East Africa. Kwani Trust publishes anthologies and magazines and hosts a widely known literary network for writers from all over Africa.
The Nest : An interdisciplinary artist collective and hub for operators in the cultural and creative industries in Nairobi. The Nest also produces films such as “Stories of Our Lifes” about the Kenyan LGBTI-community.
Sarakasi Trust : A performance arts development organization based at the Sarakasi Dome in Nairobi. Sarakasi stands behind the annual Sawa Sawa Festival in Nairobi, where young underground artists share their art with youth groups from the underprivileged areas of Nairobi.