“Survival in 21 century will be difficult and without creativity is not possible.” -
Dr Manu Chandaria OBE, a MASK supporter.
MASK was pioneered by a London-based artist and scientist, Alla Tkachuk. While on a painting trip to Kenya in 2006 working with communities in remote areas of the Rift Valley, she began to organise art workshops in local schools and discovered that the aspects of education that engender creativity were virtually non-existent. In 2007, having consulted local NGOs and teachers, she founded the MASK (Mobile Art School in Kenya). Travelling from school to school, often transporting the materials by foot up the dusty tracks of rural Kenya, Alla began teaching students and teachers for creativity.
The MASK's after-school Creativity Clubs were met with great enthusiasm by students and teachers. Education authorities and schools began providing venues and teachers for workshops, with training soon held in more than 25 schools across Laikipia, Naivasha, Samburu, Nakuru and Amboseli in Kenya.
In 2013, with the desire to make a bigger impact on young people’s creative and entrepreneurial potential, the MASK Awards were established. Supported by the Kenyan government and the national press, it was open to submissions from schools and young people across the whole of Kenya. The inaugural MASK Awards took place in Nairobi. Won by James Kungu, Jaini Shan, and Margarita Onyango, the entrants’ work travelled to London and was exhibited at the Saatchi Gallery and to Washington DC where they were shown at the US Library of Congress. Now in its 9th year, the Awards have gone from strength to strength, with entries flooding in from students and schools spread across 11 African nations, and with rewards now including paid internships at leading, international organisations.
Simultaneously, a decade-long effort to work closely with the Kenyan Ministry of Education bore considerable fruit. Having advocated the need for creativity education, the education authority recognised its importance in 2017’s paradigm-shifting curriculum reform, adding “creativity” as a "core competence".
And it’s not just national momentum that the movement has gathered. MASK has presented its work at prestigious institutions all around the world. Having shown at UNESCO IIEP (France), UNESCO KNC (South Korea), Nairobi National Museum and RaMOMA (Kenya), Kenyan Embassy (France), SOAS University of London, Royal Overseas League, Turner Contemporary, Saatchi Gallery (UK), George Washington University, Woodrow Wilson Center, US Library of Congress and the White House (USA), the art and ideas of creative African students have been seen by an international audience of over 650,000 people.
From its humble beginnings, carting art supplies up dusty tracks, today, MASK is a collective of young visionaries aspiring to improve the world with their creativity and innovation.
Working with practice and research, we develop creativity pedagogy. Working with young people, we nurture creative thinking to prepare them for tomorrow’s world. Working with the Kenyan government, we help developing creativity in the classroom. Working with communities and policymakers we help to change policy and perception. Working with business partners, we bridge the gap between the future of industry and the next generation of creative talent.
The next decade. While continuing to nourish the next generation of visionaries, MASK now wants to help them leverage their innovation to make an impact on the whole society. By feeding their best ideas and solutions to business and policy communities, MASK intends to reconnect its young creatives with these communities and fosters in them a greater sense of power, purpose and potential.