Jackie Lebo: "I am a small part of big things, that makes me happy!"


The DOEN Foundation supports pioneers who use an entrepreneurial approach to come up with solutions for a better world. Read the story of Jackie Lebo, initiator of Content House Kenya.

I started Content House Kenya because I was inspired by so many Kenyans who do so much without asking for things. You feel like, you can only contribute a small part. Because there are people that are really contributing a lot. So when you feel like you are giving something, it makes you feel good at the end of the day.

With the project 'Return to the Cradle of Mankind’ we took some artists from Nairobi to Turkana. A few days into the visit into Turkana, the artists started to understand each other's work and perspectives and started to imagine collaborative pieces that reflected their experiences and conversations on the trip. This new kind of work was very exciting to us and contributes to bringing the culture of Northern Kenya to the forefront as well as fostering cohesion. Their understanding of each other’s work and perspective led to all kinds of collaborations. For example when Elizabeth Korikel, who does tradition beading, body adornment and makes clothes out of leather in Turkana, met Ondivow, who practices photography and street style with thrifted clothes from Gikomba market in Nairobi. They were struck by how they both loved bold color and statement pieces and they decided to collaborate on a fashion photography project that will bring together elements from both their works including color, beading and redesigned thrifted clothes. The project will be titled Kibera x Kamarase after their respective homes.

The last project we did was a film called 'The Last Fight'. It is about a very historic boxing hall, the only olympic gold medallist, and whole of Africa came from that hall. The government wanted to take the club down. To our surprise: after we made this film, they didn’t take it down! It was the community that really did all the work, we just made a film that amplified the issue, but they told us how many times they got into the news because of it. It was the most worthy collaboration that we ever had so far. It was incredible. I am just feeling that I am just a very small part of a very big thing. And for me that makes me feel very happy.

There are few funders who dare taking risks, especially on the creative sector. A lot of funders pulled back from the arts. Ironicallly at a moment when about the arts are exploding with creativity! The last few years I have began talking to the foundations we work with to just understand also their work. I think they are also becoming more open. So you understand also the pressures they are under. How they have to report to the governments or endownments that fund them and adhere to tax codes. So despite all those things that we certainly understand, we encourage you to continue taking risks because it is such an exciting time for African artists.

The work of The DOEN Foundation has enabled us to go to a place that was very fantastical in our heads. Like imagine 'Black Panther' or 'Alexander McQueen', you know those big fantastical exporations: passion for film and art together. The help of The DOEN Foundation is enabling us to go to that place. Everybody else wants to know what is the outcome. Everybody else want to see tangible things. But DOEN, I found, is willing to let you explore some very big ideas and concepts. And for me that is the most exciting thing that has happened to us this year. Actually, one of the stylists we are working with, he has just done something for the movie 'Black Panther'. He has just been called by the Oprah Winfrey Network after we finished the project he is going at. So this are such moments that are happening right now for creatives in Kenya and I feel like The DOEN Foundation has enabled us to go there. And for me that is extremely exciting.

Author: Indra Heerkens

The DOEN Foundation supports pioneers who use an entrepreneurial approach to come up with solutions for a green, socially inclusive and creative society. DOEN has awarded a grant to the project ‘Return to the Cradle of Mankind’ of Content House Kenia. In this initiative artists from Turkana and from Nairobi work together. Turkana is an area in the north of Kenya that is plagued by major problems due to the recent discovery of underground water and oil. Now the country is taken over by 'gold diggers' and the nomadic tribes that populate this area can hardly survive. Through this collaboration with artists in Nairobi, Masai artists from Turkana can draw attention to the problem through dance, video, film and visual art. The results are shown at festivals both in Turkana and in Nairobi and through social media throughout the country.