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Unpublished Paper
Negotiating Identity in Contemporary Kenyan Art in Tourism
  • Shem W Maingi, Kenyatta University

An epoch of any high artistic achievement in any country is determined by the collective identity of its artists. An artist’s role in this case is extremely important for the cultural development of our civilization. Within his or her mandated role an artist offers models for a creative redescription of the present world. In Kenya, this credit remains problematic particularly when one questions the contemporary nature of “Kenyan” art. Part of the reason is perhaps because African artists have found themselves helplessly entangled with stringent difficulties. Exceptional, is an artistic individuation by art collectors, our failure to articulate a coherent art based cultural policy, and to a larger extent the lack of professional art criticism to question the authenticity in contemporary Kenyan art. This has left our Kenyan artists to mingle in an ideological quandry. From my visit to the various art galleries it has come to my surprise that some of our artists have tried to fit themselves within a post-modern approach in art, however they fail to trace its existence and subsistence when taken to task in the first place. This has resulted in an ideological quandry that African artists for example either try to emulate the likes of European 20th century artists such as Picasso, Cessane or Braques or replicate traditional African motifs and designs in search for an identity. This phenomenon is also evident in the musical arts where we have seen much of our local artists emulating western hip hop, rock and roll and techno gurus for the sake of becoming the so-called modern artists. Cisse (2004) argues that the natural trend for cultural standardisation and hegemony which globalisation brings about seems to be paradoxically contemporary to the abundant expression of cultural diversity. It would then be significant to reflexively question the contemporary nature of Kenyan art today. Is it hopelessly bound to western determination or is it genuinely African? Should it’s influence by western art determine it’s contemporary nature or should it’s Africanness remain despite the influence? Through answering these questions and noting the major socio-economic significance of Kenyan Art in tourism this paper will seek to negotiate the identity of contemporary Kenyan Art in tourism. The recommendations given by this paper will seek to stimulate dialogue for a coherent cultural policy on art in Kenya.

  • Art; Cultural globalization; Tourism art
Publication Date
December 12, 2006
Citation Information
Shem W Maingi. "Negotiating Identity in Contemporary Kenyan Art in Tourism" (2006)
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