Everyone wants to succeed.  I don’t believe there is a person on earth whose dream is to fail in life. Dreams are what keep us holding on when life kicks us down. The belief that we have something to offer the world, something only we can offer, gives us reasons to not only exist but to live.

Success is a journey some believe. To others it’s a destination. The big car, mansion in the suburbs, vacations in exclusive resorts where you have meals whose names you can’t pronounce and the respect (at least we hope so) from the world that comes with it. So we go out of our way to reach this hallowed place called success.

The journey begins in childhood. Remember when you were asked what you wanted to be when you grew up? If your answer wasn’t deemed satisfactory, for example a lot of boys said they wanted to be drivers which was understandable as little boys (okay, even big boys) are fascinated by cars, you were either laughed at or given a lecture. “No, you should be a doctor or a lawyer or an engineer. Build those cars.”

The lecture achieved its purpose. You need only listen to the news when the K.C.P.E. and K.C.S.E. results are announced to see its persuasive power. None of the top candidates interviewed say they would like to pursue a career in an artistic field. All of them read from the same script. One after the other goes, “Doctor, lawyer, engineer…”  This is not to say that there is anything wrong with pursuing those fields. On the contrary, these professions are undeniably important in the society. However, so are the arts! Why then is it that only the candidates with low grades are forced to get into art courses? Why does the society think that those studying art related courses even at university level are failures?

What is art? Who is an artist? The good book says that man is a co-creator with God. That must mean something. Sadly though, the creative is reigned in and told to be like everyone else. The creative is conscripted into the army of ‘normal and safe.’

In 2012 the number of Kenyan artists benefiting from their artistic work has grown significantly. Musicians, actors, comedians, writers and many other artists are paying their bills from the revenue generated from their artistic work. Some of them are doing so well that their living standards are like those of a C.E.O. of a successful company.  Great, right? Should be but it’s not. The society’s attitude towards artists is still relatively the same. It doesn’t matter that you’re doing insanely well financially; you don’t have a real job! The question a lot of artists are all too familiar with is, “When are you getting a real job?” Does this mean that there are fake jobs! So what is the definition of a fake job? The lack of a suit or the unstructured working hours?

Even with the unfavourable conditions for artists, many still continue to challenge society’s definition of success and pursue their dreams.  Sadly, little has changed on the road to success for the artist. The road is still not tarmacked, no borehole has been sunk for the weary traveller and there aren’t even road signs to make it easier to find the oasis the successful artists are enjoying. Is it selfishness, greed or just apathy?  Whatever the reason, the attitude must change or else the arts will never get to where they rightfully should be.

Established artists especially must mentor the upcoming ones. Only with an interest in those that come after them will the established artists begin to see the change they have been fighting for. If more artists are successful, it is only a matter of time before it becomes ‘normal’ to choose a career in the arts.

If the arts are not important, why is it that dictators or extremists get rid of artists and their work when they come into power? They burn books, paintings, records and blow up sculptures. They know there is power in art. Why then do artists underestimate themselves? Artists should be key players in setting the agenda for this country. Only when artists decide to take their rightful place in the society will the society take note.

That being said, Safaricom’s Michael Joseph Centre and Radio Africa present ‘Creating Atmosphere One Piece at a Time.’  The exhibition will feature the work of talented artists Chuma Pascal, Isabell Nyanchoka and Alfred Mwaengo all from the Bobea Art Centre in Donholm.  It runs from the 28th of September to the 10th of October 2012 at Michael Joseph Centre and entry is free to the public. Opening night is September 27th from 6pm-8pm and is by invite only.

Save those dates and make a point to give your support to some of Kenya’s artistic talent. Bring your family, a friend or two or three!