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Kenya uses United States art festival for anti-poaching campaign

KISII (Xinhua) -- Kenya plans to use the upcoming Smithsonian Folk Life festival in the United States to draw world attention to the poaching menace, a senior government official said on Monday.

Culture and Sports Cabinet Secretary Ali Wario said in Kisii, Western Kenya that the East African country is one of the two key exhibitors for this year’s festival.

"We will use our center piece to draw global attention to the campaign to save the endangered elephant," Wario said during the commissioning of the elephant sculpture.

The ten-day event runs from June 25 to July 6.

The center piece is a 12-foot and 15-tonne monolithic granite stone sculpture elephant that embodies Kenya’s commitment to protecting its national heritage.

Kenya’s elephant and rhino population has been dwindling as a result of poaching.

He added that Kenya will showcase its culture as part of efforts to conserve the country’s endangered wildlife species, which is the bedrock of our tourism.

It is a tradition that each country featured at the festival develops a work of art that acts as the center piece of the country exhibition.

Wario noted that the sculpture will also showcase Kenya as a preferred destination for conservation tourism.

"We will implement strategies to preserve, promote and protect Kenyan intangible cultural heritage through visual and performing arts," he said.

"We recognize the fact that cultural heritage, creative industries, sustainable tourism and cultural infrastructure can serve as strategic tools for revenue generation," the cabinet secretary said.

He added that the carving exemplifies our concerted effort to craft new and innovative ways of exploiting our natural resources.

Kisii, which is located 300 kilometers north of Nairobi, is renowned for being the home of soapstone.

The rock can be manipulated to make a variety of objects. However, soapstone as an industry remains unexploited as mining and carving is still done using rudimentary equipment

"The potential of soapstone is yet to be achieved but through mechanization it will be possible," he said.

Ministry of Culture Director of Administration Ann Nyikuli said that during the festival, Kenya will showcase her uniqueness in the world as a nation.

"Kenya remains a coveted destination for prehistoric culture, modern time traditions, cultural expressions as well as contemporary technology and arts," Nyikuli said.

She added that the festival will open up avenues for professional artistes to share their diversity of cross cultural expressions in creative arts and exchange ideas on technical skills

Kenya Smithsonian Folk Life Festival Program Manager Elizabeth Ouma said that Kenya will showcase its handling of valued cultural expressions and natural heritage.

Kenya and the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding on collaboration in culture in 2011.

He said that Kenya plans to use art to uplift communities.

"It is an aspiration for other upcoming artists," she said.

The sculpture was carved by a team lead by renowned artists Elkana Ong’esa. Ong’esa, who is also the President of the Pan Africa Association of Visual Artists, said that Kenya plans to use elephant sculptor to reinforce its anti-poaching campaign.

He said that they began working on the stone carving two months ago.

"We will continue to finish the sculpture during the festival so that visitors can experience Kenya’s artistry," he said.

"It is not just a piece of art but it indicates the importance of wildlife to Kenya’s economy," Ong’esa said.

Kenya Smithsonian Folk Life Festival Communication Manager Walter Mong’are said that event will be used to attract more international tourists into Kenya.

"The festival provides us with an opportunity to showcase our potential as a country to be a tourist and investment destination, " he said.

Mong’are said that event will be used to enhance Kenya’s diaspora diplomacy.



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