Urban Life in Kenya

The Art of Innovation

Growing urban areas like capital city Nairobi, ocean port city Mombasa, and Lake Victoria port city Kisumu reflect new energy in the arts, commerce, and innovation. The largest transportation and commercial hub in all of East Africa, Nairobi is also an emerging center of contemporary Kenyan art. The city draws from the diversity of Kenya’s cultural communities that are finding ways to coexist in a contemporary urban context.

The creativity yielded by urban arts centers often has roots in more traditional Kenyan communities, where innovating with limited resources is a fact of life. Because so much of Kenya’s cultural diversity can be traced to traditions tied to time and place, the contemporary Kenyan arts scene frequently produces a fascinating mix of “then and there” and “here and now.”

The people of Nairobi and other urban areas—as in cities around the world—are exploring ways to improve their quality of life in challenging new environments of less space and fewer resources for expanding populations and ethnic mixes. A few of the Kenyan participants from the Festival have found ways to mitigate ecological threats by building and creating with recycled and found materials like glass bottles and discarded flip-flops—showing true innovation in art.

Click to enlarge and view captions

Click to enlarge and view captions

Adornment Arts

Modes of Presentation

Hairstyling and body adornment reflect time, place, and personality.


Art of Recycling

Spotlights on material culture

Artists turns flip-flops into animals, broken plates and glass into homes.



Training Materials

These colorful cloths continuously evolve in design and use.