Are Culture and Arts Writers and Producers Children of a lesser God?

I wanted to write this protest note immediately the notice was given but like everyone living in Kenya for the last two to three months, I was enveloped in the political goings-on. Thankfully, tomorrow we vote and with that, we start a new chapter in the country’s various governance processes enshrined in the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

My protest note was/is directed to the Media Council of Kenya (MCK). But before I get to the core of my protest note, let me take this opportunity to congratulate the new MCK board and wish them well as they carry out their mandate within the new dispensation.

Having said that, let me now get to my beef with the Council. Last month, they announced that in May, they would be holding the second journalism awards and they would recognize and award outstanding talents in 18-different categories.

There statement noted: “In efforts to promote professionalism in the practice of journalism in Kenya, the Media Council of Kenya will hold its second media excellence awards. The Media Council of Kenya’s second Annual Journalists Excellence Awards [AJEA] will be held on 4th May 2013 as part of celebrations to mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day. The awards also seek to encourage Development Journalism in Kenya in respect to Vision 2030.”

This is excellent; a noble idea that should be supported by all.

Our men and women in the fourth estate have gone out there and excelled and their exemplary performances at the annual CNN African Journalist of the Year Competition is a clear demonstration of this. The line-up of nominees and eventual winners is incomplete without featuring a Kenyan scribe or broadcast nominee. Regional events too like the East African Community media awards are also foraged by Kenyan men and women in the fourth estate.

The Media Council’s initiative is another good idea that would certainly demonstrate that charity begins at home and it joins a list several other locally managed awards. The Media Council initiative and many others have helped indeed in raising the bar of journalism in the country. The initiative is commendable and should grow beyond the second time.

In the Media Coucil’s initiative, the “awards categories to be competed for will be: The ICT and Telecommunications’ Reporting Award, the Children and Youth Affairs Reporting Award, the Gender Reporting Award, the Environment Reporting Award, the Sports Reporting Award, the Tourism Reporting Award, the Photographer of the Year Award, the Cartoonist of the Year Award, the Business Reporting Award, the Good Governance Reporting Award, the Young Journalist of the Year Award, the Reporter of the Year Award, the Cameraman of the Year Award, the Health Reporting Award, the Digital Journalism Award, the Free Press Kenya Award, the Television and News Bulletin Award and the Journalist of the Year Award.”

In their statement, they also pointed out that “a new category has been introduced in line with the Council’s mandate of promoting press freedom. The Free Press Kenya Award will seek to recognise efforts made by journalists to promote, contribute and propagate press freedom in the country.”

This is where my beef with them starts. As a Culture and Arts writer, I feel truly offended that the Media Council did not deem it right to have a Culture and the Arts category. Are the culture and arts writers and producers children of a lesser God?

This is category that is consciously missing inspite of the great contributions that my fellow writers like Stanley Gazemba, Joseph Ngunjiri, Tom Odhiambo, Mwenda wa Micheni, James Murua, Mwaura Samora, etc are doing.

The Media Council note that “the awards also seek to encourage Development Journalism in Kenya in respect to Vision 2030,” and while I consider this to be important in the political, economic, sports and even health sector, I believe that the same merits in the culture and arts sector. Unless the Council wants to make us believe that the arts and culture will not have a role to play in the Vision 2030.

But perhaps they are right. The Vision 2030 is very silent in the Creative Economy. I only wish that they would revise their social pillar to tap into the creative economy and then they would understand the full potential of culture and arts. Talking about tourism is not enough. Tourism is a poor parasite of the development in culture and the arts. The designers if the Vision 2030 should have gone to the roots. Anyway, this is an argument for another day.

Today I take issue with the organizers of the second Media Council Journalism Awards. How could you leave out culture and the arts? In most of the categories that you have, I noticed that you also borrowed from other initiatives spread around the world. While you were researching, did you notice that the CNN African Journalist award has a whole segment dedicated to culture and the arts?

Well, maybe you didn’t. And I am not surprised. Your counterparts at the East African Community who organize the East African Media Awards are not different. At the 2012 awards, they totally ignored the culture and arts category even if the arts and culture has been the cord that has tied all the East African states. Long before political and economic corporation had been envisaged by the political powers that be, East Africans had/have been co-operating and exploiting the full benefits that come with a strong culture and the arts industry.

I feel totally aggrieved that the Council would miss to include an important category like culture and the arts.

2 thoughts on “Are Culture and Arts Writers and Producers Children of a lesser God?


    The role of Culture and Art in the Media or Society can not be devalued and this should not be ignored by any Council of Media of any country.


    You have no idea the contempt that the Kenyan status quo has for culture and the arts. I was once asked by my colleagues why I was making a fuss about the students’ writing skills when scientists couldnt care less? Do you know that our film students cannot do a film review or analysis, but if we lecturers in the arts try to teach it, we are told that we are all theory, no practice; that our job isn’t “market friendly”? Public universities refuse to employ humanities scholars in administration. So what you are talking about here is widespread contempt for the arts, and we must start fighting back.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s