How the Artistes’ Exchange Project is showcasing Turkana’s culture to the world

Turkana
Anam, the last water spirit of the great Rift-Valley lakes. Courtesy Content House Kenya for the Artistes’ Exchange Project. Photo by Migz Nthiga.
Transcribed by Vinta Njeri; Edited by Nzula

Jackie Lebo runs an organization called Content House Kenya and she is also the project leader and creator of the Artistes’ Exchange Project.  She sat down with Jane Wambui on Good Morning Kenya to discuss the project and how it uses culture to tell the untold stories of the Turkana community.

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What is the Artistes’ Exchange Project?

Five years ago, Jackie Lebo got together with a group of artists, filmmakers and writers to cover topics that were of interest to them. These were the topics not covered by mainstream media.

The group started with a documentary on David Rudisha, where they followed Rudisha all the way to the London marathon until his win.

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After oil and water were discovered, the group moved to Turkana. They wanted to cover the county’s stories in depth; to change the perception from it being a marginalized community to one about its rich culture.

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Why use art?

According to Lebo, Turkana’s culture can be found in their everyday life and not just in the museum.  There is a lot of artistry in the people of Turkana; it is in the way they dress, sing and carry themselves.

By showing people all this, art helps in reclaiming culture. It’s a way of creating our identity in a way that is unique to us without copying others.

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The reaction?

People were amazed. They realized there was a hunger for this kind of stuff. People called saying they wanted to change how they view and express themselves.  Some even wanted to change the concept of their weddings.

A lot of artists expressed interest after posting photos on social media. The group travelled all over Turkana from Lodwar to Lokichar.

Why Turkana people?

The Artistes’ Exchange project was already making another documentary in Turkana and was amazed by the everyday culture of the Turkana people. It was an easy decision to make and convenient to start.

Plans for the future?

This is part of a bigger project. Lebo and her team want to create such amazing work that makes people stop. Once they’ve been astounded, maybe they’ll stop, listen and we can finally have a conversation about Turkana. The conversation would revolve around culture with an emphasis on the community rather than the individual.

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The group also wants to look at the natural resources in Turkana and make the community an equal partner.

How can others partner with the Artistes’ Exchange Project?

For Artistes, they need to follow organizations such as Docubox and the East Africa Culture Fund; the two organizations regularly post the opportunities they have in film, visual arts and music on their social media pages.

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