NAI NI WHO? CELEBRATES THE NEIGHBORHOODS OF NAIROBI/// BY margaretta wa gacheru. Published may 31, 2013, Zuqka, Daily Nation./// A lot of serious thought and serious cash has gone into developing the current Nai Ni Who campaign that has organized urban festivals all around Nairobi. At the center of the organizing efforts is the GoDown Art Centre and Joy Mboya, one of the founders and ‘mother’- managing director of the Centre. Mboya is also a brilliant fund raiser whose magic touch gets everyone from the Swedes, the Swiss and Norwegians to the Belgians, the Brits and of course, the Americans to assist the GoDown in its drive to develop contemporary Kenyan culture and advance the country’s creative economy. In the case of Nai Ni Who (Who is Nairobi?), the GoDown’s ultimate aim is not simply to organize grassroot cultural festivals in 12 sectors or neighborhoods of Kenya’s capital city. The plan is not simply to mount festivals for festivals’ sake everywhere from Korogocho, Kariobangi and Mathare Valley to Dandora, Ruaraka, Huruma and Babadogo. Instead, the Art Center has got a long-term vision – to work jointly with what they call “local stakeholders” (NGO-speak for culturally active wananchi) to re-develop urban spaces in the city, especially those that can conceivably link the GoDown (which is set on the edge of the Industrial Area near the Nairobi Railway) to the City Centre. The GoDown has already been working with ‘stakeholders’ such as the Nairobi City Council, The Kenya Railways Corporation, and the Kenya Polytechnic (newly re-named the …..), as well as with local artists, private sector representatives and even the United Nations Habitat. For donor support, the Centre has also been working closely with a Swedish-based international firm, White Architects and the Belgian NGO, Bo Zar which has incorporated the GoDown into its European Commission funded regional project entitled ‘Visionary Africa: Art & Architecture at Work.’ Striving to contribute to what Mboya calls “a broader sustainable urban development…for Nairobi”, the GoDown even has ‘Vision 2030’ in mind as their plan to help develop the city into a ‘World Class African Metropolis’. The first phase of Nai Ni Who ran from May 18-24 and involved everything from live performances by local groups to fashion shows, sporting events, film screenings and even a ‘clean up and tree planting’ program in Mathare Valley. Aimed at celebrating all of Nairobi’s neighborhoods, not just those situated in Eastlands, there will be more Nai Ni Who events over the next few months, ideally evolving into an all-round transformation of urban spaces in the city with greater emphasis and appreciation of the city’s indigenous culture and its creative economy.


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