MASK was set up by a London-based artist and scientist, Alla Tkachuk. While on painting trips to Kenya in 2006 and 2007, she began working with schools and communities in remote areas of the Rift Valley and discovered that the aspects of education that engender creativity were virtually non-existent. Having consulted local NGOs and teachers, she founded ‘MASK Create’ charity (formerly known as 'Mobile Art School in Kenya, MASK'). MASK’s Creativity Clubs in schools were met with great enthusiasm. Education authorities and schools began providing the charity with venues and teachers, and the Clubs were soon taking place in more than 25 schools.
In 2013, the MASK Awards were pioneered to further inspire young people to fulfil their potential. Supported by the Kenyan government and the national press, the Awards were open to all schools and young people in Kenya. The entries have been exhibited at the Nairobi National Museum, as well as in London and Washington DC. Now in its ninth year, the Awards have reached thousands of participants across 12 African nations and global audiences of over 650,000 people.
Simultaneously, a decade of working closely with the Kenyan Ministry of Education has produced results. In 2017, in its paradigm-shifting reform, the Ministry recognised creativity as a ‘core competence’ of their new Competency Based Curriculum and asked MASK to support their efforts of enabling teachers to implement the reform.
MASK has also been acknowledged internationally. Its work has been presented at prestigious institutions, including UNESCO IIEP, UNESCO KNC, Turner Contemporary, the Saatchi Gallery, and the U.S. Library of Congress. The charity has organised seminars at SOAS University of London and the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC. Its work has been acknowledged by Barack and Michelle Obama, Harvard University’s Global Education Innovation Initiative (GEII), the Center for Education Innovations (CEI) at the Results for Development Institute, HundrED, and InSEA. In 2020, in recognition of its ground-breaking work, MASK was awarded the ‘Most Innovative Learning Organisation 2020’ by SME News, UK.
From humble beginnings carting art supplies up dusty tracks of Kenya, MASK Create is now a collective of creative young minds aspiring to improve the world. Over the last 15 years, MASK has developed creativity education practice; delivered training and opportunities to its young people; fostered creativity in the classroom; and engaged with communities, raising awareness and changing perspectives.