Kiswahili : A Lot of Art
Intercultural Dialogues on Art
Sana Sanaa is a joint cross-border cultural project connecting Nairobi and Berlin,
two cities developing their tech and cultural scenes.
Nairobi and Berlin, the centres of East Africa and Central Europe, are among the most vibrant and culturally rich metropolises in the world. Some of the things they share that contribute to their magic include having a multicultural population, large green spaces, and an array of cultural and leisure activities. The two cities also have many differences, and this provides space for them to learn from each other.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991, Berlin became a hot spot for the production of contemporary art and the culture surrounding it. More than 20,000 professional artists from all over the world live and work there, exhibiting their work and sharing their experiences. Art is on the curriculum at several universities. The cultural and creative industries shape the image of the city and are also among the most important sectors economically. But simply having a high concentration of creative minds does not ensure originality, contemporary art is often self-referential. After a certain point these works become boring, reflective of a collective stagnation. Cultures need continued inspiration and a flow of ideas from outside.
Inviting someone from another part of the world, is like bringing that place to Nairobi. Plus, through someone else’s cultural shock you learn a lot about yourself and your culture.
Nairobi is the undisputed economic and cultural centre of East Africa. Surprisingly, contemporary art receives little attention or appreciation. There are very few opportunities for the exchange of ideas, even fewer exhibition venues and no academic training in the arts available. Contemporary artists are outsiders, they are not supported or accepted, but they know how important they are in maintaining their culture. In this way they are avant- garde; they already understand something fundamental about their place in their culture that the rest of their society hasn’t yet realized. Of course the internet allows for instant sharing and communication, but in person contact with like-minded people from other cultures is rare. By building connections these artists can receive support that otherwise would be very difficult to access.
Art is something many of us use to ground ourselves. In a certain sense it encapsulates what makes us human: our creativity and playful experimentation with ideas and materials that isn’t necessary for survival. We use words, images, movement, sounds and music to communicate what’s deep inside us to the rest of the world. Sometimes things are created that lie between or outside the bounds of our traditional definitions of art, and yet they are art. Contemporary art disrupts the relationship between creator and viewer, challenging the viewer to reëvaluate their notions of art. Sana Sanaa has made it its mission to initiate an intercultural dialogue about art. We establish a network of artists and art lovers from Nairobi and Berlin and organize artist talks, workshops, studio visits and exhibitions. Our print studio also creates limited editions of works by well-known and (still) unknown artists from all over the world which complements our other projects and, to a certain extent, reflects the essence of our initiative.
[Contemporary African Art] could be a mysterious surprise and and a magical boost to refresh our often self-referential aesthetic.
Sana Sanna wants to connect Nairobi and Berlin, creating a space for dialogue and exchange between the two cities. Sana Sanaa was founded by Michael Maria Müller, a father of two children with Kenyan and German roots. As an artist and printmaker he has contributed to countless exhibitions and editions of works for artists in the Berlin art scene for more than 25 years. His depth of experience as well as his personal contacts flow together in this project which he hopes will receive much support. And who knows? Perhaps Nairobi will become the hot spot of the future