SWAN Day turned into a Whole Weekend, March 2013

SWAN WEEKEND TO CELEBRATE WOMEN ARTISTS Meant to be published on Swan Day March 30, 2013 but pulled at last minute: why? BY margaretta wa gacheru Kenyans have been celebrating women artists on Swan Day ever since 2008 when Sophie ‘Dowllar’ Ogutu first saw the day announced on the Internet at http://www.womenarts.org and vowed that Kenyans would also Support Women Artists Now (S.W.A.N.). She would see to that! Founded in 2007 by two American women who felt it was time to seriously applaud women artists worldwide, Martha Richard and Jan Lisa Huttner picked the last Saturday in March (which also happens to be Women’s History Month) to celebrate SWAN D. Being an artist, human rights activist and manager of the political theater group the 5C’s, Sophie Ogutu felt SWAN Day could be a great way to both mobilize as well as celebrate Kenyan women artists. She’s taken it upon herself to see that it’s happened ever since. Swan Day 2008 wasn’t a huge event, but by 2009, the day was celebrated at Kenyatta Conference Centre with support from the Centre for Multiparty Democracy. The last three SWAN Days have been held at the Kenya National Theatre with the assistance of the Kenya Human Rights Commission and a variety of other individuals and groups. This year, SWAN Day will be quite different from years past. “It’s the first time we’ll be celebrating women artists for a whole weekend,” Sophie said. “On Saturday [March 30], we’ll celebrate at Phoenix Theater with mainly live performances from 9am; then on Sunday we’ll be at Kuona Trust where the performances will continue and there will also be displays by women visual artists as well.” So many women performers have signed up either to sing, share their spoken word poetry or do story telling on the Phoenix stage that some will have to wait their turn until Sunday when Kuona Trust has offered SWAN women free space to make music, display visual arts and even share their culinary skills throughout the day. The line-up of women performers is impressive. The masters of ceremony for the day will be Shish and Tanya, actors in the hit TV show, Tahidi High. They will introduce a wide array of women singers including Achieng Obura, Iddi Achieng, Lydia Dola and Lady Masallah. Also coming on stage will be the winner and runner up in this year’s Tusker Project Fame competition, Ruth Matete and Amileene respectively. A number of up-and-coming singers will also perform, such as Vaniika Dohr and T.L. Moh. There will be plenty of poets and spoken word artists coming on stage as well. Among them are Maggie Karanja, Sitawa Wafula, Debra Kayalo, Frentaz, Sonia Gitome and Sophie ‘Dowllar’ Ogutu herself. Meanwhile, a number of television personalities will come to celebrate Swan Weekend, including cast members of Vitimbi and Papa Shirandula as well as puppeteers from The XYZ show. A few of the female visual artists will display their art at Phoenix Theatre; however more are likely to come to Kuona Trust on Sunday as there will be lots more space to exhibit women’s art. “Not all the artists have confirmed as yet,” said Sophie, “but for sure, Tabitha wa Thuka, Rosemary Ahono and Veronica Wanjeri will be there Saturday from 9am up until 3pm and on Sunday from 11am till 7pm.” The SWAN weekend welcomes all women artists to bring their artwork to Kuona Trust, Sophie added. Men are also welcome at the two events, but the weekend is especially reserved for celebrating Kenyan women in the arts.

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