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Nairobi Design Week 2023: The coolest Art-Design Event So Far!

When I walked into the Opportunity Factory on Sunday 12th March, I could not help but just gaze in awe at the creativity, the skilful work, splash of colour and the wide spectrum of stunning design stuff at the Nairobi Design Week. I have personally interacted with Adrian Jankowiak and the great team at the Nairobi Design Week since 2017, and they have always offered unique, explosive, unpredictable and practical design ideas and solutions in every annual festival they hold.

Main hall at the 'Opportunity Factory' where the main installations and displays were. There were dozens of other installations, displays and activities inside the huge compound with other structures.

‘It’s what we make it’ is the theme for this year and the exhibition is open until Sunday the 19th of March. Saturday 11th and Sunday 12th were the main busy days at the festival though. The event venue uses a huge compound called ‘Opportunity Factory’ along Mbagathi Ridge in Karen, Nairobi.

Nairobi Design Week was founded back in 2015 as a platform to showcase Kenyan and East African design with the community. It was inspired by the thinking that creatives need access to opportunities, and opportunities need people to find them. The annual design festival boasts of over 1000 creatives directly involved in the activity, 3000 annual visitors and over 100 exhibitors showcased.

Your 'ticket' to the festival. How cool is that! I also noticed that the crew had leather badges/lanyards round their necks!

Walking through the compound with many structures, including the main warehouse hosting main installations, one cannot help but just gaze in awe at the height of creativity, mastery of art and no-effort-spared to produce masterpieces.

One of the biggest pieces of art-design at the NDW 2023 is a wooden installation commissioned by Seth Bockley. It is an intricate piece of art dubbed ‘Tracing the Wild’. The art has been created by Chuma Anagbado, an artist formerly based in Lagos and now based in Nairobi. This work is a large-scale triptych of portraits of lions derived in part from data about their patterns of movement in the Maasai Mara.

A photo collage of the intricate wooden piece called 'Tracing the Wild.'

Another set that was tucked at a corner in the main hall was a collection of glass art by Nyandia Kamawe called ‘Moko Maya’. It was interesting to meet a visual design consultant like myself who transformed their career during or after covid. Nyandia was a UX-UI consultant who sought a different career after the effects of the pandemic. Spread on the other corner of the ‘factory’ was another installation by the Kibera Fashion Festival team-an amazing fashion-sculpture, made of paintwork, fabric on the wall and even a few feet of the railway (is that the runway?).

Nyandia Kamawe and her handmade glass art, Moko Maya.

One other notable vendor I met at the show was Joseph Otieno from the Creation Hive, a craft and business training center based in Eldoret. They had an array of functional recycled items such as cards, teddy bears, gift boxes, sculptures of birds and a few other animals. Next to their display was a colourful Afrikan fabric installation that made the walkway a pleasant sight by the same team.

You cannot resist the great feeling of seeing beautiful fabric art in a festival like this one. This was done by the Creation Hive from Eldoret.

From my experience at the festival, the creative space in Kenya is definitely exploding with ideas, excitement and inspiration. It is just March but we are already moving as if on a fast lane. We can only look forward to such authentic, unpredictable and collaborative events in the remaining nine months of 2023! You can learn more about Nairobi design week on their official website

Authentic Afrikan sights and sounds at the festival. Mwalimu Nyatiti (Peter Wamalwa) and cultural performing artist Kake Wakake

PROMETHEUS! The Kanairo space station .

Fashion corner- An installation by the Kibera Fashion Week.

I spotted these hand-printed bags from afar. Don't ask if I was in the company of my wife because...

Akoth Otieno's mandalas, handmade crochet design under Olisa Kenya. The idea behind Olisa Kenya is to be a vessel for craft to be celebrated in the contemporary and to marry clothes with community talent

Another banda space where Kibera Fashion Week got to showcase their stuff.

Some unique stationery by The Art Carte. They are a custom stationery and product business infused with Afrikan designs.

Colours, colours and more colours!

I met Kake Wakake, a cultural performing artist who describes himself as a defender of the poor people and loves mother nature.

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