Art is formless, form is framework, art administration doesn’t have framework. Anthology of Everyday Struggle
What began as an eight-day workshop culminated in an artistic uprising.
On April 6, 2023, a call for participation was cast to artistes and creators to be part of a research-based project that encompasses dance, storytelling, drama, and music, and explores the important topic of art and culture in everyday life to be showcased on June 20.
Organised by the Kenya International Theatre Festival (KITFest) and the Czech Republic theatre group, Spitfire Company, in partnership with the Kenya Cultural Centre- Incorporating the Kenya National Theatre, ANTHOLOGY OF EVERYDAY STRUGGLE was a collaboration between artistes from Kenya, the Czech Republic and the USA.
Directed by Miřenka Čechová (Czech Republic) and Nancy Jo Snider (USA), the project kicked off as a workshop with an ensemble of well-regarded theatre practitioners such as Lorna Lemi, Faiz Ouma, Sanchez Marley, Dadson Gakenga, Mwikali Mutinda, Adeti Mahaga, Brian Gaitan, Naomi Gichuki, Red Brenda, Vivian Nyawira, Esther Kamba, Nimrod Elkana, Joseph Obel, and Derrick Kinyanjui, as well as football freestylers Austin Njuguna and Martin Kibera.
As is wont whenever creative minds come together, the pertinent questions revolved around the power of art. What are the weaknesses of art? How does art influence society? These questions were the foundation of an eight-day conversation on the everyday struggle of an artiste with the cast sharing their struggles and experiences in the local creative industry, which they then incorporated into the piece through different art forms.
The practice of viewing all symptoms, including words, posture, tone of voice, and movements of the face and limbs as valid communication, better known as Dramatology, is mostly related to psychotherapy. The themes by the artistes were communicated through mesmerizing fluid body movement and well-coordinated motion artistry, accompanied by sound designer Martin Tvrdý’s (Czech) beguiling soundtracks which gelled in with Nancy Jo Snider’s (USA) soothing cello score.
Austin Njuguna and Martin Kibera’s football freestyling skills were a sight to behold, generating loud gasps with every exquisite juggle.
Through poetry, dialogue and monologue, thought-provoking and unapologetic words were passed. The cast was vocal and didn’t hold back from revealing the uncomfortable realities of being an artiste to a point of incorporating sarcasm to depict the stereotypical casting procedures and malevolent treatment of artistes on film sets.
THE PROFOUND DEBATE
After curtain call and the final bow from cast and crew, there was an interactive session where a conversation triggered by the performance and theme of the piece ensued among the audience.
Over the years, petitions have been made, forums attended and meetings done but there still hasn’t been a legal framework or database to govern the theatre industry even in the presence of a guild that has been inactive for years, and revival efforts have yielded no fruits.
Structure deficiency in the sector has perpetuated the lack of confidence in arts as a career. One audience member confessed that as an upcoming artist, having watched the piece and hearing all that comes with being an artist in this country, she grew conflicted on whether to continue; but don’t all professions have their fair share of shortcomings?
Unlike other professions though, the art sector barely has avenues for such sensitive matters to be addressed. In that moment, ignited by that particular piece, at the theatre, where most artists consider home, it was a suitable place and time to read the writing on the wall: Adapt or die.
Overall, it highlighted the importance of access to workshops that not only educate on performance but also address the business aspect of the arts, auditions, frequent monologue uploads, play readings and many more opportunities that are present and nurture artists regardless of the hurdles in the industry.
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