Sometime during 2003, a somewhat ambitious venture located on the outskirts of the capital city Nairobi, had quietly commenced.
The quest was to convert a disused industrial go-down yard which previously operated as a cars-repair warehouse – into a creative space for varied arts-inclined disciplines.
Over a decade later, anyone keen to indulge or participate in artistic activities within the city is at some point, bound to find their way to the Go Down Arts Centre.
With its external fence dedicated to display of life-size graffiti wall artistic impressions, the arts centre is now ranked among Kenya’s numerous key multi-disciplinary artistic institutions.
As a creative hub with a core function to nurture varied contemporary art mediums growth, the GoDown comprises of a performance auditorium, subsidized visual artists studios and dance rehearsal space.
This is in addition to open discussion rooms and an occasional gallery, which is used for the showcase of paintings, artworks and sculptures during major exhibitions.
Throughout the year, the arts centre also hosts a variety of captivating, crowd-puller and insightful events inclusive of live indigenous music concerts, photographic and visual arts exhibitions.
At the onset, the GoDown turned into a rehearsal space for mostly Nairobi-based acrobatic troupes. This was prior to its gradual transformation into a fully fledged artistic platform.
Notably, the centre regularly facilitates exchange programs between artists drawn from various disciplines and different parts of the world.
These include capacity building workshops and seminars with focus on support for artistic development alongside artist’s residencies, which entail provision of an open studio.
And by virtue of fostering such collaborative encounters – the growth, recognition and visibility of local creatives has been significantly enhanced.
The Go Down hosts an array of creative arts and multi-media ventures among them are NairoBits software and Tazama TV programmes projects, Ketebul recording studio and Kenya Music Conservatoire Annex.
Over the past half decade, the centre has forged a partnership with the Conservatoire Annex, chipping in bursaries support for budding classical instrumentalists and chart music lessons.
A variety of gigs feature regularly on Go Down’s monthly calendar of events. These may range from contemporary dance performances, music concerts, creatives’ forums, visual arts and photographic exhibitions.
Most of the activities are open to the public. The Nairobi County Manjano Visual Arts Exhibition & Art Prize competition is another of its on-going initiatives.
Manjano is an annual showcase of paintings, artistic installations and sculptures. As an incentive, cash prizes are up for grabs in students and established artists’ categories.
Besides being an avenue to market their artworks, the exhibition also offers exposure for particularly little-known Nairobi-based artists to wider audiences.
Equally significant is the centre concerted efforts to promote artistic programs, which are relevant to local communities.
One such initiative is the annual Nairobi’s neighbourhoods Dunda Mtaani [bounce in the hood] music festival – held at various localities within city estates.
So far, the event has been staged in Kibera, Kawangware, Riruta, California, Huruma, Buru Buru and Korogocho.
The mostly young rappers gain a platform to connect with audiences from community where they grew up – inspiring youngsters to believe they too can rise and make it.
Local youth groups utilize these activities as an opportunity to showcase their budding artistic talents through music, dance and acrobatic displays.