How do new democratic understandings relate to expanding visual art practices? Nairobi is a fertile ground for social movements and civil society, the bases of progressive political and social change. The city also hosts a vibrant art scene. Yet, while claims are often made for the role of the arts in social progress more broadly, art practices have been peripheral to analyses of African development.
This project mobilises current radical theories of democracy, and critical empirical field research into the function of visual art as an agency for change, in an interdisciplinary investigation of the place of visual art in democratic thinking. Engaging artists, their work and its audience on the ground will provide credible evidence from practice and practical examples of impact, which is lacking from current opinions and theories. The overall aim is to expand current understandings of contemporary visual art’s uses in how societies practise, experience and depict politics.
The project’s impact resides in its direct relationship to UNESCO’s 2005 Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions. It will empower cultural workers in Kenya and elsewhere with strong evidence to support and inform the use of art in finding solutions to local and global issues and in promoting liberal freedoms. It will also contribute to policy debates in the post 2015 MDG environment, credibly emphasising art’s value in strategies for revitalising people’s participation in political and civic life for the development of their societies.