THE RUSH HOUR RIDE: Done with charcoal and pastels on brown paper, the drawing creates awareness on traffic rules. Photos credit: Safaricom

[dropcap]F[/dropcap]or long, Kenyans have considered paintings as a luxury only few can afford. As a result, talented artists have been frustrated by a poor art-buying culture, which, in turn, means there are very few art galleries in the country, a situation compounded by lack of government investment in this sector.

What is more, this means that the beautiful story of Kenya is not being told in the best way possible because only Kenyans can tell it as it is and in the process showcase its diversity.

Often, what people, especially outsiders hear is a story of a country immersed in poverty, disease, famine, corruption and general underdevelopment. It is for this reason that Safaricom moved to change the narrative by offering a chance to Kenyans to tell their own story through pictures.

The initiative started in 2015 as a social experiment after Safaricom requested the public to share beautiful photos of Kenya on social media using #ThisIsMyKenya. It also launched an app.

The idea was to show how narrow perceptions misrepresent Kenya, while the ultimate goals was bring out the bigger picture.

Impressed by the results, Safaricom worked to dispatch teams across the country to record the true picture of the country through the Capture Kenya Challenge. In the process, it put to shame those who were contended with what can be termed a “helicopter view” of the country.

The artist was inspired by the handcarts that deliver water to estates and business establishments in urban areas, whenever drought strikes and water rationing happens.

The photos were produced in the 2016 calendar as well as a coffee table. Last year, it shifted from photography to 2D by launching the Kenya on Canvas competition.

A brief about the initiative captures it aptly. “For too long Kenyan art has been whispered about. We believe now is the time for its magnificence to echo far and wide! Through the Safaricom calendar, we have a chance to celebrate Kenya through the eyes of gifted Kenyan artists.

A chance to explore our beauty, wildlife, love, aspirations, hope, laughter, and more! This is also a wonderful opportunity to rally behind Kenyan art and take it to the next level – we believe that if we truly come together around Kenyan art, invariably, great things will happen! Twaweza.”

Looking through a child’s eyes the artist is showing that money cannot buy happiness and that is why no matter where you are from in Kenya, we can all live lives of joy, love, kindness and humility.Out of the illustrators who responded to the call, 36 made it to Safaricom 2019 #ThisIsMyKenya calendar.

The winning artworks depicted the whole spectrum of Kenyan life from the hustle to put food on the table, the resilience of Kenyans in overcoming calamity such as the tribal clashes, the beauty of children enjoying the sun throughout the year thanks to the equator as well as Kenyans going about their ordinary chores in various spheres of life.

The 2019 calendar acts as a moving gallery allowing Kenyans to bid and buy the original paintings.

You can own one of these pieces by visiting the TIMK website https://thisismykenya.co.ke/

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