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How to look at art: All art should be social art.

This Saturday, a five-year retrospective exhibition of the MASK Prize opens at a leading gallery of contemporary art, Turner Contemporary, in Margate, UK. The exhibition presents almost 200 best works selected out of 6,500 entries. As many shows of the MASK Prize in the past, it sets to have yet another triumph of young African talent shared with the rest of the world.

The MASK Prize is a creativity competition. Creativity means the ability to generate ideas, communicate ideas, and be creative in a team. It is not, therefore, a usual art competition. It does not look for the next best 'artist'. Instead, it challenges young people to reflect on creative and innovative ways of thinking and doing. It asks them to reconsider such attitudes as 'this is how we always do things' and pose the question 'how do we change things to achieve improvement and breakthrough?' The MASK Prize awards Sh500,000 in prizes for the most inventive artworks and ideas.

Although the MASK Prize is not an art contest, art is its main feature. Why? Art is the effective way to teach children to experiment, innovate and imagine. It is essential to creativity learning. Lack of the meaningful art practices in schools in Kenya and countries in Africa has been a serious omission. But this is changing. Recently, the Kenyan Institute of Curriculum Development recognised creativity as a 'core competence' of the basic school curriculum, with 'creative arts' being its main learning activity. KICD's creative arts director, Dr Jennifer Wambugu, is one of the MASK Prize judges.

In its essence, the MASK Prize is Social Art at work. Social Art, centered on people, helps to empower them to achieve goals, whether educational, social, political or economic. 'All art should be Social Art,' I believe. The MASK Prize drives young people's capacity to bring change, make a difference, and build a better future. One of its participants, John Mutahi, 20 said: 'Art and creativity make us innovative and lead us to the inventions that make the world a better place.'

This insight by John explains why creativity is important. We live in a time of huge change. New technology rapidly transforms our lives. Old jobs get phased out, while whole new industries emerge. Children who start school today will have jobs that do not yet exist and that will demand a high level of creative thinking. 'By 2020, creativity will be the top skill workers will need' forewarns the World Economic Forum ('The Future of Jobs' report, 2016 ).

There is a demand, therefore, for education programmes that strengthen the creativity of children today. The MASK Prize is one of such programmes. It advances creativity and innovation to improve young people's employability and leadership. Pioneered in Kenya in 2013, the MASK Prize now attracts participants across Africa: Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Mauritius, Cameroon, and South Africa.

BUSINESS SUPPORT. Businesses are the prime beneficiaries of creativity. Creative workforce is what drives their profit and productivity. The MASK Prize is a non-profit programme that relies solely on donations. Please support it by making a donation and join its other donors: Kenyan newspaper The Star and leading TV station Citizen TV, Kenyan Mayfair Insurance and Mabati Rolling Mills, as well as Rivers Foundation (UK) and The Nobelity Project(USA).

The MAKS Prize shows at Turner Contemporary from May 12-June 10. Visit
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Publication:The Star (Nairobi, Kenya)
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:May 12, 2018
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