MASK’s programmes:









·         Art workshops and clubs

·         Art for Peace-building

·         Facilitator-training

·         Local, national and international exhibitions

·         KENA (Kenyan Emerging National Artists) camps (for artistically talented young people)

·         MASK ART PRIZE, an annual national art competition

·         Advocacy programmes

·         Partnership with the Talent Academies, a UNICEF/Kenyan Ministry of Education programme (currently in development)





The ART WORKSHOPS AND WEEKLY CLUBS programme runs in 20 rural schools in Kenya.  The non-formal 1-2.5 hour workshops accommodate the groups of 20-40 pupils aged 3-19, including disabled, refugee or abused children.  These workshops and clubs are virtually the only opportunity for creative learning in those schools. There are ‘creative arts’ in the primary school curriculum but it is widely ignored and not taught by teachers because it is not subject to examinations.  The arts are not part of the secondary education. 


The pupils develop:


·         Creative and innovative thinking, resourcefulness and ability to generate new ideas and opportunities

·         Initiative and leadership skills

·         Communication

·         Ability to understand and express ideas, values and feelings

·         Extended imaginative capacities

·         Confidence, self-esteem and motivation

·         A definition of who they are through their own personal development

·         Ability to look at the world in alternative ways



Our pupils' stories:


Jane’s story: “MASK in my life, it helped me realize my talents”


Jane Enyen, 17.  As a result of participating in the MASK programme, Jane is earning money by selling her wildlife paintings to farmers of Lake Naivasha.  Jane says: “Farmers invite me whenever they have functions e.g birthdays and I make paintings for them.  I am usually paid a thousand shillings for my paintings which are mainly on wildlife...I am very happy and I thank teacher John and Madam Alla for introducing MASK in my life, it helped me realize my talents.  I have moved to another school now that is called St. Clare of Asissi Secondary school.  I am helping my peers to draw and paint.  I am very happy and my parents are happy with me too."


James’s story: “Art is thinking”


Irungu James Kungu, 19, has now finished school in Naivasha and intends to go to university next year.  James says: “Art is the way people use their thinking.  Since I started participating in MASK art clubs I have improved my ability of expressing my thoughts, and learnt to draw on my imagination.2  James participated in MASK talent camps, and featured in The Star newspaper in February 2013. 


Helen’s story: Creative scientist


Helen Gichuki, 22 was running one of MASK’s art clubs at for 4 years: first as a pupil of the Lariak Secondary School and as a volunteer at the Sipili Schools for the Deaf, both schools in Sipili, Northern Kenya.  She is now in her last year of the bio-chemistry diploma at the Thika College.  She recently developed a new drug that her College intends to patent and sell to manufactures.  This is fantastic example how fostering creativity in Helen led to her thinking creatively and innovatively as a scientist.




This ART FOR PEACE-BUILDING programme aims to promote peace-building amongst schoolchildren.  It came about as a result of MASK working in conflict-prone areas of Naivasha and West Laikipia.  Most peace-building organisations in Kenya do not work with schoolchildren.  MASK believes that peace-building should focus on young people in order to laying a foundation for a peaceful future.  The arts are also most effective for educating young people in peace-building.  This is becasue learning through creativity is most active in young people; and the arts teach young people empathy that is the basis for education for peace.


Our peace-building workshops focus on young people sharing their experiences of violence and conflict, as well as their aspiration for peace.  Young people create artworks that they show at exhibitions in schools, communities, nationally and internationally. 


MASK’s mobile format allows us to benefit a larger number of young people across many different ethnic groups, acting as a link between them. 


All peace-building work undertaken by MASK is conducted in consultation with local and national governments, using the curriculum of the peace-building NGOs such as the Coalition for Peace in Africa (COPA) and Center for Conflict Resolution – Kenya (CCRK).


The programme helps young people to:


·         Act as agents of peace in their communities

·         Feel empowered, and thus empower others: art is capable of making young people understand themselves as people who matter and are listened to

·         Learn and teach others empathy.  Empathy is the basis for education for peace.  Art is a crystallisation of emotion and therefore through practising the arts young people can explore their own emotions and understand the emotions of others

·         Increase their capacities to promote peace amongst themselves and the wider community by learning to express and communicate their emotions.


What our beneficiaries say:


·      “Through peaceful pictures we can promote peace. Art helps people to exchange ideas when they are together. This can make people to resolve the disagreements peacefully.PATRICK MWAURA, 15.





MASK trains facilitators who can run our art workshops and weekly art clubs.  These facilitators can be

·         volunteer teachers, and 

·         pupils. 


Since 2006, we have trained about 100 facilitators.  The programme encourages volunteering among the young people and forges on-going friendships between participants.  All our former voluenteers keep in touch with MASK and with each other, and still volunteer at the workshops when they have an opportunit,y or leave from work or their studies. 


The facilitators learn transferable skills such as:


·         Teaching

·         Management and administration

·         Leadership

·         Learning about creativity and how it can be encouraged, and

·         Showing initiative and being motivated.


Joel’s story: “Art helps me to think outside the box”


Joel Gatua, 23 now.  He has been in charge of the MASK’s Lariak Secondary School art club for 4 years.  Before he joined the MASK programme, he did not know that he could paint!  Soon after he started with us he said: “I feel addicted, I am full of curiosity about colours.  I’ve developed creativity!”


He now paints murals and designs business logos for local farmers.  He teaches local street children to draw.  He runs a non-profit business that grows vegetables, sells them to a school for use in their lunches, and uses the funds to pay for school trips.


Joel now says: “Art helped me to become an entrepreneur.  Art helps me to think outside of the box and keeps my mind, spirit and emotions always engaged.  I feel art is one of the hard working and disciplined-centred developers.”  


Recently, Joel was invited by the elders to come up with some ideas as how children can contribute to peace-building in his local village (after 47 soldiers were killed in his community as a result of tribal conflict).  Joel say:  “I suggested that the kids will play an important role by making peace drawings and organising an exhibition, drama and singing.  I am honesty proud to contribute in this way.”


In October 2012, Joel came to UNESCO HQ in Paris to speak about MASK’s programme to the IIEP (International Institute of Educational Policy) Policy Forum on engaging youth in civic life through education.  “Dear Alla, we deeply thank you for putting the effort to showcase the MASK paintings at the Forum.  You and Joel put an important issue on the agenda in terms of the importance of creativity and art in education.  It was also great to see how Joel interacted with policymakers and academics to get his point heard."  Policy Forum Organizing Committee, IIEP-UNESCO.





The EXHIBITIONS programme is an integral part of MASK work.  These exhibtions promote creative education in schools, communities, and present ideas to policy-makers.  They also are part of MASK's assessment criteria of its pupils learning.  The exhibition’s format ranges from displays in classrooms, to art marches, to shows in leading art galleries. 


The programme helps young people to:


·         Share their skills with other children and young people

·         Display their talent, and communicate views and aspirations

·         Broaden their horizons and knowledge about others

·         Raise their motivation and self-esteem

·         Promote artistic creativity and cultural cooperation.



MASK exhibitions:


·         A number (in hundreds) of exhibitions in schools and communities in Kenya

·         2008 Exhibtion at the Russian Embassay in Nairobi during the Kenyan post-election.  National television channel (KTN) filmed the exhibition and reported on it in their daily youth programme, 'Str8up'; Kenyan vernacular radio stations recorded children's peace messages and broadcasted them nationally.

·         2009 - exhibition at the UNESCO IIEP in Paris.

·         2009 - UNESCO’s General Conference.

·         2010 - Kenyan Embassy in Paris.

·         2010 - RaMOMA (Rahimtulla Museum of Modern Art) in Nairobi, Kenya.

·         2010 - Saatchi Gallery in London.

·         2012 - Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars (WWC), Washington DC, opened by Nairimas Ole-Sein, the Cultural attaché at the Kenyan Embassy, and by Steve MacDonald, the Director of the African Programme at the Woodrow Wilson Center, see poster below.

·         2012 - MASK presented its work at UNESCO IIEP Policy Forum 'Engaging youth in planning education for social transformation'.



Press and media featured MASK’s work:


·         2008 - Kenya National television channel, KTN, weekly youth programme, 'Str8up'

·         2008 - Kenyan vernacular radio stations

·         2010 - The Daily Nation, the Kenyan newspaper, article “Lessons from Mobile Art School”,

·         2011 - The Star, the Kenyan newspaper article, From Russia with paintbrush”,

·         2011 - NTV, life interview of MASK’s founder, Alla Tkachuk

·         2013 The Daily Nation, the Kenyan national newspaper, “Art Prize”

·         2013 The Star, the Kenyan national newspaper, “Kenyan Creative Minds”,

·         March 2013, “Art for Development Sake”, the Royal Overseas League Magazine, UK.



More information on MASK web pages:


What others say about our exhibitions:


·         “Hi Alla, I want to tell you that your efforts are not in vain. These children will live to tell how their works ‘spoke’ to other children in the world", JENNIFER WAMBUGU, HEAD OF CREATIVE ARTS AT THE KENYA INSTITUTE OF EDUCATION.


·         "Dear Alla, It was wonderful to have you here in Washington! I had a chance to visit the exhibition at Woodrow Wilson Center.  Very nice indeed. Congratulations", THE AMBASSADOR ELKANAH ODEMBO, EMBASSY OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA, WASHINGTON DC.


·         "Dear Alla, we deeply thank you for putting the effort to showcase the MASK paintings at the Forum. You and Joel put an important issue on the agenda in terms of the importance of creativity and art in education. It was also great to see how Joel interacted with policymakers and academics to get his point heard." POLICY FORUM ORGANIZING COMMITTEE, IIEP-UNESCO.






All MASK’s programmes are for all young people, not for only the talented ones.  However, over the last seven years artistically gifted young people have immerged.  After they finished their schools they came to us and said ‘What’s next?’ So, MASK decided to create a programme called KENA Group (Kenyan Emerging National Artists).  The first 12-day camp was organised in May 2011 in Nairobi.  We invited 12 school leavers from our 20 schools.  The young people, while painting and debating on art and life, learnt from each other.  Kivuthi Mbuno, an estublished Kenyan artist, came and gave a master class to the group.  The group organised a theatrical performace and a dance competition. 


The programme helps young people to:


·         Develop their artistic creativity and talent

·         Expose them to practices of other artists around the world

·         Raise their aspirations and self-esteem

·         Raise the profile of the visual arts amongst young people in the country

·         Become agents of artistic creativity in their communities. 


IRUNGU JAMES KUNGU, 19, one of the participants said: “I like painting because it is in my heart.  It started just like a dream when I was young and discovered drawing.  It was very hard for people, including my family, to believe and support me in my talent for art.”  The KENA camp helped his family to support James and be proud of his talent. 


KENA group met with met with the Kenyan Minister for National Heritage and Culture, Mr Ole Ntimama, and Director of Culture, Mrs Gladys Gatheru, photograph below.  MASK’s children spoke to the Minister about their needs for creative education and achievements.  The Minister was very impressed with their work and ambitions. 



Our video:


KENA artworks:






The MASK ART PRIZE is an annual national art competition for schools and all young people in Kenya under 25 in visual arts.  2013 is it's first year running.  There are no other such art competitions for young people in Kenya.


The idea for the competition came from Kenyan schoolteachers who believe that this competition will encourage creative education in schools.   It is also an opportunity for MASK to make a larger impact with the limited funding that has been available to us.


The shortlisted artworks will be exhibited at the Nairobi National Museum in June 2013 and Saatchi Gallery in London in September 2013.  There will be an award of three prizes of 55,000 Ksh each, a trip to London to young artists, and one prize for a Kenyan state school of 100.000 Ksh.  The deadline for entering artwork is 1 May 2013.  This year’s theme of the competition is ‘What makes you proud about Kenya’.


The programme:


·         Inspires and mobilises young people to get engaged in the visual arts and to share their experiences, ideas and talent

·         Provides a platform for such engagement

·         Encourages creative education in schools by offering school prize

·         Contributes to visibility and awareness of the significance of the visual arts as a source of knowledge, meaning, value and identity.


This is what some of the young people who entered the competition said:


The MASK ART PRIZE is organised in partnership with:







We work with policy makers in Kenya such as the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Youth, and the Ministry of Culture to:

In addition to the above list of exhibitions and press-coverage, or advocacy work included:


2008     MASK published and presented a “Year After the Conflict” book of children's artwork to the District Education Officers in Laikipia and Naivasha and to the Kenyan Ministers of Education and Youth.


2009     Working with the Kenya Institute of Education (KIE) we recommended that “Peace-building Through Art” could be included in schools’ examined subjects, such as history or languages.  This recommendation was welcomed by the KIE and now incorporated in the subject of History and is being implemented in many Kenyan schools.


2010     “Art Education in Kenya” conference.  Organised together with SOAS (The School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London) and IOE (Institute of Education, University of London),


2011     Independent research was conducted about MASK’s impact in Kenya.  “Arts Education in the Developing World: Evaluating the Impact of MASK”  This piece has been further used in our advocacy work.


April 2013          MASK presented its programmes at the Library of Congress, African Section/AMED, Washington, DC.


April 2013          MASK presented its programme to the Grant T. Harris, Special Assistant to the President Barack Obama and Senior Director for African Affairs at the White House, Washington DC.