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.
‘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.
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.
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?).
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.
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 www.nairobi.design.