I was at a pivotal time in my trajectory when I joined IdeasTap.
I’d been working in animation for a little while, having completed a postgrad in 2D Animation from St Martins in 2009, and was anxious to get back to my own art practice.
I signed up in 2011, initially to apply to the then Sky Arts Futures Fund [now the Sky Academy Arts Scholarships]. I hadn't realised a platform like that existed, and what I found there was so valuable – this world of opportunities and networks and conversations all set up to nurture young artists. Becoming a member of IdeasTap and then winning the Sky Arts Futures Fund was a vital push in the right direction.
My winning project was essentially about finding a way “home” to Kenya. I was born there – my mother is Kikuyu and my father is fourth generation British Kenyan – but raised in the Middle East and I’m now based London. I’m fascinated by migration and in trying to determine what “home” means, and what it means to belong or not to belong. In the project, I used conversations with both my parents about their childhood memories of Kenya as the catalyst to navigate our shared history. This culminated in an immersive multimedia installation that incorporated drawing, animation, sound, sculpture, projection, and props, in my grandmother's living room. The Matter of Memory was first exhibited at Carroll / Fletcher Gallery in London, alongside John Akomfrah and Rashaad Newsome.
The thing about IdeasTap was just how lovely everyone was. You felt that everyone who worked there really cared about your work, career and future in a genuine, personal way, and that’s tremendously nourishing for a young artist. I’ll always remember with huge gratitude that when I won Sky one of the IdeasTap team came and talked to me about how personal my project was, how I was going to have to deal not only with my own emotions but also navigate and respect those of my family. She then shared a story with me about her own experience of this and introduced me to her brother, who offered me lots of advice and a generous ear throughout the development of the project. She didn't need to do that, but it helped so much and I’ll always remember it. That's what IdeasTap offered – it was a big organisation filled with little acts of monumental kindness.
Since The Matter of Memory was exhibited, life has been pretty exciting. I’m currently one of the artists in residence at the Florence Trust for 2015, I've been invited to talk and present work at institutions such as the V&A, Leeds Beckett University, LCC, and Valand Academy. I participated in the African Diaspora Artists of the 21st Century project with King’s College and Iniva and will be exhibiting with Iniva at Art15 . I was an Iaspis international grant holder for a residency at the Konstepidemin in Gothenburg in April 2015, and will be one of the participating artists in GIBCA 2015, curated by Elvira Dyangani Ose. Currently, I’m also collaborating with renowned Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina on a live book which will be called Since Everything Suddens in a Hurricane.
It’s heartbreaking that IdeasTap is closing. It makes me angry. With all the cuts to arts funding and the growing cost of arts education in this country, it’s becoming increasingly perilous for young people to choose creative paths. IdeasTap was a beacon, and to know that light has gone out due to lack of financial backing should make us all livid – and worried for the future of the arts in the UK. Both the public and the private sector need to support young artists' voices. Because it’s through these voices that societies speak.