Last Friday, Thinkillustrate attended one-of-a-kind event hosted by Transparency International Kenya (TI-Kenya). If you don’t know them, they are at the forefront of anti-corruption and integrity efforts in Kenya. What made the Creatives for Integrity Forum so unique was the blend of creativity – art, music, poetry, spoken work, even doodling – and anti-corruption advocacy.The question asked by Sheila Masinde, Executive Director of TI-Kenya, was,

“How do we link activism and art to be able to pass the message on anti-corruption?”

Thinkillustrate at the Creatives for Integrity Forum

Why Anti-Corruption Advocacy?

See, where we are as a country, we seem to have accepted that corruption is part of our DNA. It’s deeply ingrained in Kenyans, from the “handshake” you give when stopped by a traffic cop, to the little “convenience fee” you give to a government officer to get faster service, to the billions stolen from the government’s procurement basket. You name it, “mpatie ya macho” is something we have come to accept as a part of our culture. As Titus Gitonga from TI-Kenya put it, “tumefanya corruption ikae word supuu, but si ni wizi tu?” (we have made corruption look like a pretty word, but it is simply theft).

However, as Ms. Masinde pointed out to the youth who formed a majority of the audience at the forum,

“Public resources zikiibiwa ni nyinyi ndio mtaumia (when public resources are stolen, it is you who will suffer)”

“your lives have just begun, and that’s why you must do everything you can to speak out against corruption.”

How are creatives using art for social change?

Juliani, renowned Kenyan performing artist who speaks out against injustice through music, took the stage and encouraged young creatives to use their voice for good. How he sees it, he does what he does because he loves his country and wants to make it a better place for us. His songs come from his own lived reality, and he sings about the things he sees not going right. According to him the problem comes in when we don’t take ownership of our own country, and thus we can’t demand for things to get better.

Mufasa the Poet, a versatile performing poet, actor, author and writer who uses art to tell stories inspired by day-to-day life on the African continent, also spoke about his motivation for contributing to anti-corruption and integrity. Seeing how easy it is to spread misinformation in the digital age, he uses his voice to enhance access to information. He added that facts alone cannot change hearts and minds, but real change happens when one communicated through content, through stories.

Vincent from Wasanii Sanaa added to this, stating that we can never grow as a country if we do not uphold Chapter Six of the Constitution on leadership and integrity. The use theatre and performing arts as it is an engaging way of connecting with their audience and illustrating key messages on different pertinent issues that affect the community, such as anti-corruption and integrity.

Thinkillustrate was not left behind, I also had a chance to speak about the power of visual thinking in enhancing access to information. We use graphic recording, doodle-animation, and other creative techniques to help people understand complex and technical information. The goal is for more people to understand and connect with legal and social justice issues that affect everyone, and from there, they are able to participate as active citizens. And of course, was Thinkillustrate really in the room if we didn’t make a doodle of it?

Thinkillustrate graphic recording from the Creatives for Integrity Forum

Opportunities for creatives

Finally, we had some representatives from PAWA254, The Institute for Social Accountability (TISA), the British Council, and Creatives Garage speak about opportunities for creatives in supporting advocacy for human rights and good governance. From grants to awards of recognition, they all support artists who will help tell the story of consciousness to their audiences, creating an empowered citizenry who hold their leaders accountable.

This was hands-down one of the best civil society events I have ever attended, both in terms of content and impact. Yes, the MC made us dance (cringe for my two left feet), and we had some cool trivia game (I even won third place!), and we were graced with performances from Juliani, Mufasa the Poet, RJ the Poet, and even got a surprise song from an Ethiopian gentleman in the audience. But at the end of the day, I like to think that we all left there with a renewed fire in our souls to do right by our country. At the very least, I can speak for Thinkillustrate and say that we left there with our mission renewed – using our talent of visualising conversations to make information more accessible to everyone. Because we believe that access to information is the first step to access to justice.

In closing, I will leave you with the words of RJ the poet:

mengi yamesemwa but less imafanyika….time imefika sauti ya haki kusikika!”

(a lot has been said but less has been done….the time is here for the voice of justice to be heard.)

So, how can you use your creativity today to raise awareness on social issues? Or how can we help you communicate your key messages through the power of visuals? Reach out to us today!