• Anaïs Richmond

MASK | Voices of Change

Updated: Jul 22, 2020

Here at What Can We Do? we strive to promote a better and fairer world through civic engagement, and that is why we are launching the Voices of Change guest blog series.

We want to amplify the voices of a variety of different charities, community groups and individuals. While highlighting how COVID-19 has impacted them, how kindness plays a role in what they do, how people can get involved to support them and what the ideal future looks like.

MASK logo

Our guest today is Sofia Carreira-Wham from MASK discussing the impact of the pandemic in Kenya and the importance of creativity at school and beyond.

students posing in front of their artwork in the classroom

Tell us about yourself - Where do you work and what is your role?

I have worked with MASK since January 2020, as their Head of Social Media, and helping to develop the exhibitions programme for their fantastic young artists.

MASK was founded in 2007 by artist Alla Tkachuk upon discovering the absence of art education in Kenya. It began as a small mobile unit, travelling between schools, pioneering creativity clubs and training local teachers. MASK’s efforts have led to nationwide education reform in Kenya, with creativity made a ‘core competency’ of the school curriculum in 2017.

Since 2013, the pan-African MASK Awards in Art and Innovation have further encouraged young people (age 4-25) to realise their creative and entrepreneurial potential, with rewards including cash prizes, paid internships and international exhibitions.

Alla Tkachuk
Alla Tkachuk

How has COVID-19 affected the work that MASK does?

Social distancing measures have had a huge, disruptive impact upon education, with all schools in Kenya closed since early March. More broadly, the pandemic has greatly increased the financial strain on young people across the continent, and finding the materials, space and time to be creative is a struggle for many.

In terms of our events, all exhibitions have been indefinitely postponed, and the opening of the 2020 MASK Awards delayed. As the participation of schools is crucial, we now intend to launch this year’s Awards alongside their planned reopening in September. Fortunately, we welcome online submissions, and we will continue to offer our participants opportunities and visibility through our digital platforms.

a class showing off their artwork outside

What activities have MASK been undertaking since the start of COVID-19?

At the start of the pandemic, MASK’s team of Ambassadors collaborated on a project for UNESCO’s International Arts Education Week, responding to the theme of ‘How Art Unites Us’. This took place across our social media channels, including a new Instagram account.

More broadly, we have been working on a range of digital initiatives, including online Art and Innovation Galleries. The aim is to better connect our creative community, and to create a space for MASK participants to showcase their work to individuals and organisations across the world. An online space dedicated to free resources will be made available soon. Signposting to opportunities and offering practical and professional training for aspiring artists and entrepreneurs.

I have also co-curated a virtual exhibition, in partnership with Afrikan Gallery, featuring works by three incredible young MASK photographers: Margaret Ngigi, Staice Shitanda and Louis Nderi. It launches on the 20th of July, and prints will be available for sale (with the majority of proceeds directly benefitting the artist, and a percentage donated to MASK). Check out The Visual Tapestry: An Exhibition of Young African Photographers.

two men admiring the painted self portraits on the wall

Tell us about the role of kindness in your work.

Our teaching and learning programmes nurture key skills that enable young people to achieve economic self-sustainability, and we, in turn, rely on the generous support of institutions and individuals across the world to realise this change. At its core, MASK is a community built on the collaboration and open-mindedness of young people, teachers and broader advocates, united by a vision of a kinder, more creative future.

How can people help/ get involved with what MASK is doing during COVID-19?

If you wish to donate to support MASK’s work, you can do so on our website.

We are always looking to expand the reach of the MASK Awards, in terms of visibility and what we can offer the participants and winners. If you have any ideas we would love to hear from you.

You can also follow us on social media for updates and inspiring work from our creative community!

children painting in the classroom

What does the ideal future look like for you?

Our world is in the midst of huge changes and challenges. As COVID-19 has further demonstrated, the current education and governmental systems are not fit for purpose, and do not represent or enable the majority of society, particularly the youth. MASK therefore believes it is more important than ever to empower young people through creativity and innovation to shape a better future for themselves, their communities, and all of us.

Sofia Wham
Sofia Carreira-Wham

Sofia Carreira-Wham

Head of Social Media for MASK


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Have some more time to give? Find us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and at our website for more inspiration.

Each week we publish more ideas on how you can get involved. If you know of any initiatives in your community that you think we should promote get in touch.

woman typing on her laptop on the floor

Are you an organisation, charity, writer, or simply have something to say? Do you want to be our next guest blogger for our Voices of Change blog series? Then please get in touch.

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