Reflections from the Community

The Braid Arts & Culture Fund’s 2nd season has started with so much enthusiasm from the community!!  Cultural heritage practitioners and organisations from across the East African region (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda specifically but even beyond that) showed us just how many amazing ideas they have to promote, protect, grow and evolve the sector. With over 400 applications received in only two weeks, this is clear evidence of the need and excitement in the sector.

The applications' depth and recurring themes point to the challenges and opportunities that the community faces.  The toll of globalisation on East African culture, in all its forms, is a consistent issue raised in many applications, as is the opportunity that applicants see in cultural education through creative expression, technology and intergenerational engagement to balance this. Applicants also see the usefulness of cultural education for other issues, including the climate crisis, historical injustices and uncovering solutions for broad health and societal challenges. High level project themes that integrate this issue/opportunity dynamic are:

  • CULTURAL FUSION (US THEN WITH US NOW): Several applicants shared their interest in reviving and fusing tradition with contemporary practices to showcase the authenticity and ingenuity of the region and its historical and cultural roots.  The desire to grow cultural pride with the younger generation was a clear throughline with these project ideas.  This theme popped up in applications for fusion musical collaborations, storytelling and theatrical pieces, visual collaborations, projects involving traditional hairstyles or clothing, art residencies and festivals.
  • ORIGINAL CONTENT (OUR VOICES, OUR STORIES): Another recurring theme was that of voice and story, the idea to produce original content about the region from the perspective of East Africans alone, even within a global context.  This theme includes the interest in countering global superhero trends and values with local historical or mythical heroes and superheroes with local values and interests.  Additionally, within this same theme, is the interest to elevate local languages in writing, in stories, in production.  Everyday stories and voices are also emphasized, with many applicants wanting to share the valuable experiences and practices of the day-to-day East African as they work, cook, and move from place to place. Applications with this theme offered original content through comic books, poetry, AR/VR, community building, recipes, storytelling, dance and more.
  • PRESERVATION AND PROMOTION (OUR HISTORIES, OUR TRADITIONS): Instead of integrating contemporary living with the traditional/historic or creating new stories, many applicants have shared their interests in capturing, preserving, protecting and promoting historical and traditional stories, practices, artifacts and more, exactly as these things are and before they are forgotten or lost.  These applications included a number of cultural centres who have artifacts and materials from history and tradition as well as creatives using AR/VR, documentarians and archivists aiming to digitise and capture cultural heritage for future generations. Applications with this theme offered ideas for the creation of books, online and physical cultural sites, podcasts, exhibitions and traveling educational exhibits.

We see that the community is really thinking about how to preserve, share and grow the depth of its cultural heritage in creative ways that enhance its value with younger generations and others.  What this makes us think about is how to support this thinking into a larger movement.  It is important to give space to practitioners and organisations to create around, protect and preserve their cultural practices and stories (as we try to do with Braid Fund), but how can this  be supported to the next level where this work is amplified, where voices and stories can be further distributed and sustained to reach farther across the region and even globally?

Can this work be integrated into structures and systems that already exist – publishing houses, media companies, streaming platforms, networks of museums or archivists, universities, maybe even development organisations?  Is there a model of support to sustainability that can be found in the sector picking up from or merging catalytic, small funding mechanisms, like Braid Fund, with larger funds, businesses, venture capital, etc. so there is a clear next step for many of these innovative projects that have huge potential for communities?  Whatever happens next with all this big, future thinking, all of us at the Braid Fund are clearly seeing the here and now in this work.

There is a lot of incredible potential but also a lot of needs in the cultural heritage spaces of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda right now!  We ask others in this sector (or even just those who care about culture) to join with us to expand the reach, the work and the potential of this community.  Over 400 applications are a lot for a small fund like ours and we could use more resources and more support to be able to offer more grants.  Despite the limitations, we are excited to see how Braid Fund Season 2 unfolds.  Stay tuned for announcements about Season 2 successful applicants and their projects!

About Braid Arts & Culture Fund:

The Braid Arts & Culture Fund sees the health of the art, culture and cultural heritage sector and its contributions to wider society as a weaving of elements: our disciplines, our practitioners, and our communities. Intertwining these strands leads to improved relationships, new work, increased connection and greater influence. The fund offers grants to innovative practitioners of art and culture projects in East Africa. This is a collaboration between the Trust for Indigenous Culture and Health (TICAH) and the Cultural Heritage for Inclusive Growth (#CultureGrows) program by the British Council.

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