‘After five’ is often seen as the time when people get off work (i.e. in you’re in the formal economy) and let their hair down. It’s when, according to Kenyan web designer Christina Engell Anderson, they get back to the business of pursuing their primary passion, be it a sport or workout session, play rehearsal or music lesson or some other creative exercise.
After 5 is also the name of the online magazine that Anderson started less than a year ago to celebrate Kenyan creativity and provide a digital platform for a portion of those artistic passions to be shared with a wider online public.
It was the passion of the Kenyan photographer that first attracted Anderson to design her own magazine to spotlight young visual artists like Philippa Herrmann-Ndisi, Zack Saitoti, Jimmy Chuchu (better known for his work with ‘Just a Band’), Neil Thomas and Karungari Wambugu.
Already on her sixth issue of After5, Anderson has yet to make a bundle of money from her magazine. “But that wasn’t the point of my setting up the website in the first place,” said the daughter of the award winning public relations doyen, Yolanda Tavares-Anderson.
“We wanted to see if we could create a viral effect online with the magazine,” said Christina referring to the tsunami-like effect that various YouTube videos have had (such as Justin Beiber’s rapid rise from nobody to becoming a pop star overnight via YouTube).
In fact, she’s found that Kenyans are still more inclined to pick up a newspaper than look at an online magazine, unlike media consumers in South Africa where she studied for seven years, from her first year in secondary school (at a girls boarding) through University of Cape Town where she graduated in 2007 with a triple major in Film, Media and Interactive Production.
“They still seem to trust the print media more than online services,” said Christina who admits that changing people’s media habits is a slow process. Nonetheless, her audience is growing all the time.
“Initially we had to call up photographers and ask if we could put their images online, but now they are calling us and asking to be featured,” said the 24 year old founder of one, if not the first online magazine devoted solely to exposing the works of Kenyan photographers.
Highlighting one photographer every issue with visuals and an in-depth interview, some issues of the magazine have included as many as 21 visual artists, all of whom are either Kenya-born like Herrmann-Ndisi (whose ‘She series’ was featured in the first issue) or long-standing Kenyan residents like Neil Thomas (whose ‘Turkana series’ was the centerpiece of issue #2).
Her latest issue #6 is all about exposing the Instagram, a cutting edge online application (app) that anyone can download for free on their cell phone and take photographs of their ordinary everyday experiences.
It’s an ‘app’ that Anderson says has caught on like wildfire in the West. It has also come to Kenya where increasing numbers of amateur photographers have become what she calls “Instagrammers”, spontaneously shooting random images that catch their eye.
In a sense, the Instagram has had the viral effect that Christina had hoped after5 would. But being at the cutting edge of online culture in Kenya isn’t all that easy a place to be. It’s understandable however, given her background, both academic and experiential.
First of all, she returned to Kenya after living in a society where a good percentage of the population goes online regularly for everything from shopping to researching products, people, places and practical information of all sorts. She sees Kenyans moving in this direction gradually, but by her providing online services and enabling increasing numbers of Kenyans access to information, she hopes to hasten people’s interacting online.
Second, she interned at a South African online visual arts magazine called One Small Seed while still an undergraduate in Cape Town and quickly felt she had found her calling. “It was such a creative atmosphere to work in that I felt that one day, I would love to work in Kenya in an environment just as exciting and stimulating as I found at One Small Seed,” said Christina who, at age 22, had to decide whether she’d claim Danish or Kenyan citizenship (since dad is a Dane and mum a Kenyan).
“There was no doubt in my mind: I had always planned on returning to Kenya, and I especially wanted to join the Kenya Ladies Golf Union,” said this award-winning golfer whose mum is also an avid golfer and taught both her daughter and son Stefan (whose now a pro) how to play golf from a very early age.
But it took a job working for a Kenyan web design company called Zamoya her first year back in this country before she could gain the confidence required to go out on her own and start to utilize all the online skills that she’d acquired in Cape Town by starting up her own web design companies.
The first one she constructed is called www.celebrationskenya.co.ke
. It came out of her seeing how difficult it was for a dear friend to organize and plan her wedding since there was no central place for her to go to get information on everything from wedding reception venues to catering services and bridal gown designs.
Unfortunately, the site hasn’t earned her a fortune as yet; but then, she feels compensated in knowing that people’s weddings have gone well thanks to the information they accessed via her website.
She continues to develop the Celebrations Kenya site, but since she started after5,she admits her focus has primarily been on building the website until it will one day look more like One Small Seed, which is available both online and in print.
In the meantime, one may also find Christina playing golf for the Ladies Golf Union of Kenya. For a girl who won the British Junior Open in Scotland at age 14, was just made deputy captain of the Ladies Golf Union, next in line to become captain.
Otherwise, Christina believes that both www.after5.co.ke
are ‘bridging a gap’ between a public hungry for relevant information and artists and entrepreneurs who busy developing Kenya’s creative economy. She also hopes her websites are serving a useful purpose enlightening the public about the immense creative capacity potential of online publications as well as of Kenya’s visual artists.