MASK was pioneered by a London-based artist, scientist and educator, Alla Tkachuk, who went to paint in Kenya in 2006. While working with communities in remote areas of the Rift Valley, she began to organise art workshops in local schools and discovered that aspects of education that engenders creativity was virtually non-existent. In 2007, having consulted local NGOs and teachers, she founded the Mobile Art School in Kenya (MASK). Travelling from school to school, often transporting the materials by foot, MASK began teaching students and teachers in schools for creativity.
With a clear goal in mind – to encourage people to think and act ‘outside the box’ – the MASK school Creativity Clubs were met with great enthusiasm by students and schools. Education authorities and schools began providing venues and teachers for workshops, with workshops soon held in 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. From its humble beginnings, carting art supplies up dusty tracks, MASK has presented in exhibitions and seminars 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.
Today, MASK is a collective of young visionaries aspiring to improve the world with their creativity and innovation. MASK is growing. Working with the Kenyan government, it helps developing creativity in the classroom. Working with business partners, it bridges the gap between the future of industry and the next generation of creative talent. Working with young people, it nurtures creative thinking to prepare them for tomorrow’s world.
The next decade. In its first decade, MASK developed its Creativity Education Model for teaching creativity and innovation and helped thousands of young people to discover and strengthen their 'outside box' thinking. 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.