KENYA CULTURAL CENTRE: WHAT DO THE ARTISTS EXPECT?
The newly refurbished Kenya Cultural Theatre’s main auditorium was eventually reopened last Friday at an event attended by the president, senior government officials and artists from all over the country.
During auditions for the groups that would entertain the guests at the reopening, a cross section of the artists based at the theatre had expressed fear that performance opportunities were being given to artists that hardly ever step foot in the compound-except on special occasions.
“We are the ones who’ve been here, even when the theatre was dysfunctional. So it’s only fair that we get recognized at least for keeping the machine oiled when it wasn’t moving.” One performer not willing to be mentioned had said.
But Francis Ronjey was at the theatre just a day before the reopening to see what the artists’ hopes and expectations are as far as the newly renovated theatre is concerned.
“All they have done is dress a dirty chokoraa in nice expensive clothes”, was what one artist said to express his disappointment that the old board is still in office. “We expected a new theatre to be run by a new board, otherwise we don’t foresee much change”, he added.
But he’s not the only one that feels this way. TJ* a veteran artiste at the theatre expressed his gratitude for the face-lift but is disappointed that “the elephant in the room has not been addressed.”
Apparently, the space next to the theatre also known as KBC & Norfolk Parking was once part of the theatre. As we still dig into this, Magao-a traditional dancer and percussionist hopes that the grabbed artists’ space will be reclaimed, a sentiment he mutually shares with Musyoki Mutua, a poet, singer and percussionist with Abakisimba Dance Troupe.
“Let’s hope that the fishy vibes around the grabbed parking lot are also sorted out.”
As one speaks with these artists, it’s hard not to notice the glittering hallow of dissatisfaction they all wear. They all seem to sing the same song of need for more opportunities or infrastructures to promote their trade.
Moseh Drummist Entertainer, a well known performer reiterates that “the beauty of the theatre should also reflect on the livelihoods of the artists that use it.” And ultimately, he expects that the management realizes that art is just like any other business that needs a good environment to thrive.
“This space needs to be both a cultural and business hub that facilitates artists’ efforts.”
Magao adds that “so far, the prices for the new rehearsal space are already set too high for most artists at Ksh. 1000 per hour.”
Hassan Khoisan, a percussionist of Abakisimba reckons that besides a good management that involves artists in decision making, there should also be more programs for mentorships and opportunities.
Finally, we spoke to Anyango Migure, the 70 year old lead dancer of Kagan Kochia Dancers from Homa Bay County and his Chairman Orwa Apiyo who expressed their unwavering support for “Pressdend Ouru Muigai Kenyatta” for good leadership. They also warned that they won’t give me a young fertile girl if I fail to mention their beloved Governor Cyprian Awiti whose leadership they are very happy with.