14 May 2021, Accra: Ballet is not what comes to mind when you think of Nairobi’s art scene, yet it’s also one of the most exciting stories waiting to be told about the city. Zambia’s next innovator is an 11-year-old protégé, and an illustrator in South Africa is creating a coffee table book that challenges misconceptions that keep African artists out of art curriculums.
These are some of the stories being produced by 18 content creators, wordsmiths, performance artists, visual artists and journalists who have been awarded grants by the Africa No Filter Kekere Storytellers Fund.
The storytellers are from Morocco, Madagascar, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, Guinea, Zambia, and Ghana. They’ll produce digital and in-person projects that range from short films, podcasts and articles to photographic series, spoken word and dance performances and even a colouring book for children - all as part of Africa No Filter’s work of shifting stereotypical narratives about Africa.
Kekere was set up by Africa No Filter (ANF) in November 2020 to nurture the next generation of creative talent in Africa by empowering emerging artists to tell unique and little-known stories about their communities. The Kekere grants are worth between $500 and $2000.
“Africa has a wealth of unique and exciting content and storytellers who are passionate about telling these stories. But content creation needs funding, which in addition to being limited, is rarely accessed by up-and-coming storytellers. Kekere is our way of empowering as many emerging artists as possible to tell nuanced stories about their communities,” said Moky Makura, Executive Director of Africa No Filter.
The Kekere fund was created to be accessible. For instance, grants were paid out using Western Union’s vast network of cash agents and banks, and only early to mid-career creatives could pitch their ideas. “Just going through the applications we received was exciting. There is a lot of creative talent on the continent and much of it is untapped and largely unseen,” Makura said. “We believe the projects we selected will contribute to a growing body of work that is changing the narrative about this continent. I am really grateful that Africa No Filter can play a small role in shining the light on new talent.
The first grantees of the Kekere Storytellers Fund are:
Content creation grantees
Michael Mulusa, Zambia
Get ready to meet David Zulu, an 11-year old aspiring inventor who wants to use tech to inspire and innovate. Mulusa’s funding of $1700 will produce a short film about the protégé. “I want the world to know that Africa has brilliant young minds who will impact the future of innovation,” said the filmmaker.
The Critics Company, Nigeria
The Critics Company is a collective of filmmakers famous for using their mobile phones to create movies that go viral. Their $2000 grant will produce Wrong Answers Only, about a director who navigates content creation in a time of limited human interaction.
TselisoMonaheng, South Africa
Monaheng will use the $2000 funding to produce a short film, podcast and a written series about emerging jazz musicians in South Africa. “This project aims to demonstrate that our existence isn't without precedence and that there are great people who were doing majestic things before us,” Monaheng said.
Mohamed Dione, Guinea
Dione’s documentary series, Momo Dione: Going Home, is a travel documentary that explores the goals, struggles, and accomplishments of African immigrants who have returned home. Dione’s using his $2000 grant to produce the second season of the series. It’s set in Guinea, Senegal, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Ghana.
Frank Ogallo, Kenya
Ogallo’s funding - $1000- will produce short-form stories and podcasts that follow a group of African athletes to provide a unique insight into their daily life and conversations about the power of sports.
Bryan Wanjiku, Kenya
Ballet is not what comes to mind when many people think about Nairobi, yet to Emry, it’s an integral part of the city’s multifaceted identity. His $2000 grant will produce a documentary that follows some ballet dancers in the city. “I would like to show we are capable of telling our own stories,” said the producer.
Visual art grantees
Sharp-Lee Mthimkulu, South Africa
The illustrator will use the $1800 grant to produce the second volume of By Way of Illustration, a coffee table book that documents contemporary African illustrators. “Throughout art school, we are taught about European art history and not much about African artists due to a lack of documentation. Representation is critical. We want to cultivate creativity in South Africa and across Africa and have our books added to art curriculums,” said Mthimkulu.
Jante Juma, Kenya
Photographer Juma is producing a photo book that showcases Nairobi’s contemporary art scene and some of the artists who make it vibrant. “Their work challenges the status quo and pushes creative boundaries of what African art is or should be,” said Juma. She received $1700.
Hind Bouqartacha, Morocco
Bouqartacha’s storytelling challenges gender norms and stereotypes in her country. The photographer is using her $1000 grant to complete a photo documentary that dispels the myth that women in her country lack agency.“I want to show women who are the total provider of their lives, boss working and crushing stereotypes,” she said.
Uzoma Dunkwu, Nigeria
Dunkwu’s $2000 is funding the production of a colouring book that wants to introduce children to the continent’s cultural diversity.
Performance art grantees
Joma is using her grant - $2000 - to stage a multidisciplinary spoken word and dance project called I am an African. “We all know that Africa has great wealth. I want people around the world, and especially Africa, to discover our wealth,” she said.
Ivy Alexander, Kenya
Alexander’s working on a short audio-visual EP showcasing Nairobi's diverse musical and cultural landscape. Her grant of $2000 will cover production costs. “I want to show the world the complexity and diversity that lies in African music; not only specific to the ‘world music’ genre that we as Africans are affiliated with,” she said
Emmanuel Ndefo, Nigeria
Ndefo’s $2000 grant will support a photography and dance project profiling young artists from Sabon Gari, Kaduna State. The series documents their experiences as they nurture their creative vision of the city. “I want the world to see Sabon Gari’s potential as a commercial capital and to shine a light on local initiatives and community development,” he said.
Abdulsalam Hamza, Nigeria
The vlogger’s $1800 funding will produce the second season of Gembu Vlogs, a travel series set around the Mambilla Plateau region of Nigeria. “I want to show a unique side of Nigeria that is largely unexplored for its natural beauty, abundant resources and the passion of its people,” he said.
Joewackle J. Kusi, Ghana
The playwright’s radio and online drama explores culture and class using Ghana’s independence year as a backdrop. Subsequent episodes will feature Kenya’s and South Africa’s independence. “Part of this series is partnering with radio stations in Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa to air them. The global audience will experience very human stories told on the historic political backdrops of these African countries,” said Kusi. His grant’s worth $2000.
Onyango Otieno, Kenya
The poet’s $1500 grant will fund the publication of Poems to My Father. The collection is a conversation about African masculinity. “I want to highlight the struggles many African boys have connecting with their fathers in Africa today; how growing up is incredibly lonely and the need for fathers to reconnect with themselves to be there for their boy children.”
Edith Adhiambo Ochieng, Kenya.
Ochieng’s $1500 grant is funding an illustrated print and digital book about women who shaped and continue to shape Africa. “I want to dismantle the idea that Africa's story is only driven through the male gaze,” she said.
Fumbani Phiri, Malawi
Phiri is publishing a digital book of five plays, all of them monologues written in five languages spoken in Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. “I want to show the powerful spirit of cultural diversity,” she says. The $2000 grant is going to fund production costs.
Jessica Hagan, ANF’s Programme Lead, said: “We're confident that unique projects will come from our first round of Kekere grantees and hope they’re inspiring and insightful.”
Hagan added: ”We also hope that our grantees feel seen and supported, and this encourages them to continue doing the work they love and support other storytellers in Africa.”
A new callout for the Kekere Storytellers Fund will go out in the next quarter. Interested artists can register on the ANF website.
Note to editors:
About Africa No Filter
Africa No Filter is a donor collaborative working to shift stereotypical and harmful narratives within and about Africa. Through research, grant-making and advocacy, our objective is to build the field of narrative change-makers by supporting storytellers, investing in media platforms and driving disruption campaigns. ANF’s goal over time is to leave an empowered narrative change ecosystem and an informed community of storytellers who work more deliberately to change harmful narratives within and about Africa. The donor collaborative is funded by Ford Foundation, Bloomberg, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Luminate, Open Society Foundations, Comic Relief, the Hilton Foundation and the British Council. www.africanofilter.org
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