Kenyan artists have portrayed the country as an SME driven economy through two-dimensional artworks showcasing in this year’s Safaricom PLC Calendar.
Majority of the artwork selected for the 2019 calendar shows small traders in city centres across the country busy enjoying what they do best to make ends meet as they strive to achieve their dreams.
There are exhibits of women selling vegetables in a market day, a man sharpening knives at a busy junction, a cobbler mending shoes, bodaboda operators waiting patiently for customers over a banter, Jua Kali artisans making household goods, a man pulling a handcart of water, a shoe shiner attending to customers and another showing Kenyans enjoy a cup of beef soup outside a butchery.
It is a true picture of Kenya’s daily hustle for a sector that employs 80 per cent of people living in the country and accounts for 92 percent of all jobs that are created by the economy.
The sector contributes 45 per cent of the GDP to highlight the importance of small businessmen who are using their talents and creativity to support growth of the economy while boosting their social well-being.
However, these small enterprises are faced with much difficulties with about 46 percent of them reported to be closing shop within a year of operation, due to what experts say is inability to tackle glitches in the market.
Deloitte Kenya Economic Outlook 2016 report, highlights lack of enough capital, limited market access, deprived and unsupportive infrastructure, inadequate knowledge and skills as key challenges affecting small businesses.
Technological advancement, runway corruption and unfavourable regulatory environment were also found to be creating disharmony to the sector.
In yet another piece of art featured, the matatu culture is portrayed in graffiti to explain the importance of the sector to artists especially in urban centres and Nairobi City.
In recent years, the practise of pimping out and colour exploding in local matatus has been all the rage out of a new love from the young and outgoing urban population.
With Matatus supporting 70 per cent of the city’s 4.5 million commuters, a bigger market has been created for graffiti artist like the famous ‘Moha’ Mohammed a graffiti artist.
There are also several artworks showcasing different cultural activities like bullfighting, a cultural practice famous in west-ern Kenya and cattle shepherding by young boys from pastoral communities.
A common feature that cuts across the art is the happiness of the people featured in a show of love and pride in what they do.
These art goes against a 2018 UN World Happiness Report that ranked Kenyans and East Africans as the unhappiest in the world.
Kenya was ranked at position 124 out of 156 countries but fared well compared to regional counterparts.
Over the last five years Safaricom has been using its calendar to celebrate the beauty and diversity of Kenya through photography and has produced amazing portfolios for local artists.
The platform has also helped a great deal in marketing the works of these professional photographers now earning from their passion.
In 2018, Safaricom made a resolve to change the focus of the initiative and introduced two-dimensional paintings to capture a different kind of art that has grown significantly but lacks enough publicity to showcase Kenya through a different lens and help artists earn a living from their work.
The mobile network operator thus resolved to come up with Kenya on Canvas, with a promise to get the best artist work on the 2019 calendar.
The inspiration behind this was that it will offer artists a platform to express and market themselves in a moving gallery. Kenyans will also have a chance to bid and buy the original paintings.
The brief to artists was very simple, to capture Kenya’s beauty through the people’s eyes. It cut across people we love, the food we eat, the places we visit and the life we live.
Most contributions were received and 36 pieces that appealed most to the project’s judges were selected. They can all be viewed on https://thisismykenya.co.ke/