Presentation of “The NEST” a Kenyan multidisciplinary collective working since 2012 with the aim of exploring our troubling modern identities, re-imagining our pasts and inhabiting mythical African futures

Presentation of “The NEST” a Kenyan multidisciplinary collective working since 2012 with the aim of exploring our troubling modern identities, re-imagining our pasts and inhabiting mythical African futures

Established as a group of innovative cultural thinkers working in a range of media of and themes, The NEST Collective has evolved into a creative powerhouse that extends far beyond its Nairobi roots in terms of relevance and appeal. Most recently, the group has earned accolades from global audiences for the anthology film “Stories of Our Lives,” which explores LGBTQ identity in the context of Kenya. In this year alone, however, The NEST has also presented work at the “Africa is Now 2015” exhibition in Cape Town and received various award nominations for screenings of their 2014 short film, ‘To Catch A Dream.’

On its website, The NEST expresses its “aim of exploring our troubling modern identities, reimagining our pasts and inhabiting mythical African futures” as the main mission. Their portfolio, which is a range of “work within the fields of film, visual arts, music and fashion that begins conversations and stirs up dialogue amongst our communities and audiences creators” addresses these key questions. Those involved in the collective share a common dedication to questioning these matters despite their different areas of expertise. Writers, filmmakers, musicians, stylists, tech-geeks, etc. have assembled in order to bolster each other in their endeavours, resulting in a well-rounded, highly professional, and clearly successful organization.

The NEST is revolutionary, not just because of the range and quality of projects, but rather because it retains heritage as a fundamental element of the work created. Though the group has received numerous prizes and commendations from audiences all over the globe (and appears set to gain further recognition), The NEST continues “exploring, dissecting and subverting the layers of how Africans are Seen and Unseen, what Africans Can and Cannot Do, where Africans Can and Cannot Go, and What Africans Can and Cannot Say.” By interacting with their local environment and the issues they find most pertinent there, the group sheds light on these matters in order to improve conditions within their community, while building connections to the broader world. In sharing their material from Vancouver to Berlin, the heart of the movement stays true to Kenya and allows audiences of any region to identify similarities in the material that may pervade boundaries. Nonetheless, these projects bring attention to what is unique to The NEST’s local environment, both in moments of celebration and denunciation. The collective makes use of its powerful voice to take a stand against injustices that might otherwise go unheard-of.

In many instances, the result is a beautiful synthesis of local culture and international phenomena. Member Mars Maasai contributes to the NEST Radio team with his weekly program, ‘Discovery Raps,’ on which he plays “a mix of some of the legends he grew up listening to, and new artists he’s encountered along the way.” The program not only reveals the exquisite paring of Kenyan artists with more widely-known performers, but it also provides a glimpse into the diversity of Maasai’s collection and the ways these styles complement each other. Similarly, visual artist, filmmaker, musician and co-founder of The NEST, Jim Chuchu, has received praise for his work in a number of mediums around the world. While the projects address a variety of themes, they feature a distinct combination of local motifs presented in familiar forms. For example, his first narrative short film, ‘Homecoming’ (2013) employs the well-established genres of fantasy and science fiction to “tell urban tales about life in African metropolises.” Chuchu has also created a series of impressive short fashion films, featuring collections by local designers and set in Kenyan environments. The piece ‘Urban Hunter,’ is mostly playful, but it remains refreshingly complex due to its cultural layering. With nods to traditional Kenyan practices and imagery, it is simultaneously a fashion film of international prestige.

 

This dichotomy of cultural specificity and global recognition appears throughout the collective’s portfolio, engaging viewers from various backgrounds, while prompting them to recognize the fine intricacies and contradictions of identity. By approaching African contexts in innovative and approachable ways, The NEST has established a platform for dialogue that is appealing, comprehensible, and most importantly, relevant, for a range of participants. Therefore, it has stayed true to its mission and created an exciting opportunity for a new wave of thinkers and creatives in the region to express themselves.

June 9, 2015
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