Two editions in Kenya on the lunatic line
One pilot in Tanzania from Mwanza to Dar
Who - and How
Culture-Makers are Changemakers
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Trust and Intentional Serendipity
What happens when artists, cultural stakeholders, academics, journalists and audiences
from across boundaries get on a train together?
To date, EAST has engaged over 170 creatives from across the region, India, Europe and North America in three editions of the project. We have invited emerging and established artists, as well as ‘movers and shakers’ from the industry, regular passengers, journalists and academics on the journey, with the intention of creating a catalytic experience, in which they can learn from each other and develop synergies.
People who trust each other, work with each other: The emotional, physical and creative experience pushes boundaries and builds trust, inspiring participants to experiment across disciplines and explore alternative narratives. EAST teaches us how to create inclusive spaces with shared decision making, build bridges and co-create: it is not an easy experience but a powerful one.
EAST is a collaboration between individual creative professionals and organizations. It is shaped by a collective of creatives from the region and beyond. Founded by Geraldine Hepp and Poppy Spowage in 2016, EAST has been brought to life through collaborations with organizations, ventures and foundations such as What’s Good Studios, Distant Relatives Backpackers, Creatives Garage, British Council, Africalia, Goethe Institute, Burning Man, Arts and Humanities Research Council, Africa Culture Fund, CDEA, BASATA, TaSUBa and FireFly.
Break Boundaries and Re-imagine What is Possible
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A Cultural Shift
Why are connected, courageous and diverse culture-makers
needed to evolve and unlock humanity's potential?
Systems level change requires a change in mindsets, beliefs and consciousness - and culture has the power to do that.
In a time of change, when hegemonic perspectives that have dominated social, political and economic thought are revealing their dysfunction, we believe in the power of connecting creatives, inspiring risk-taking and reimagining old narratives, pushing the boundaries of artistic practice, and expanding the impact of our work through collaborations and smart, inclusive networks.
Unique, intense atmospheres and environments impact how we come together, how we perceive, think and create. Our first sensory experience as humans is in a tight space that moves, with a rhythm and beat: our mothers' wombs - the train is a brilliant analogy to this experience, with its tight, moving spaces and continuous beat carrying us through day and night, allowing us to sink deeper into ourselves and with each other in silence, in creation and in deeper-than-usual conversations.
EAST is not only metaphorically a journey of creative re-birth - it's an emotional and physical experience that challenges how we perceive and imagine ourselves, our shared, complex histories and our world, inviting the new to emerge in radical ways.
Work-in-progress Performances, Collaborations and Insights
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Connection and Co-Creation
when artists don't have to cater to
a specific market or grant?
The real impact of EAST lies in the creative re-birth participants experience on the journey and the collaborations and connections that emerge based on the trust they have built through this shared experience. It speaks to the potency of process vs output-oriented residencies and to the power of atmospheres, unique environments and shared adventures that allow us to re-imagine and re-invent ourselves and our worlds.
The ripple-effects include collaborations, insights and thought-leadership created by artists, thinkers, audiences and stakeholders.
EAST researches perspectives on industry challenges and opportunities, creating regional and global visibility for contemporary art in East Africa which is largely known for its safaris and exotic traditional culture. We are structuring conversations with artists, stakeholders and audiences to connect dots, and contribute to a thriving and globally connected creative economy in Africa.
Work & History
Below, get a taste of our Work-in-Progress Performances that are presented to a local audience after the train journey at a beautiful location at the shores of the Indian Ocean - and of some of our creative moments on the train and on the platform before leaving. For more videos see our Facebook or Instagram.
The idea for EAST was born many years ago, when Geraldine Hepp studied music at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles imagining a Drum-n-bass inspired musical journey on the Trans-Sibirian train, crossing eight time zones.
The vision evolved and manifested, when she met creative producer and EAST co-founder Poppy Spowage in Kenya in 2016, as a DIY two-day journey created with a collective of creatives from East, West and South Africa, supported by What’s Good Live Studios and ticket sales.
Following its success, it developed into a five-day pop-up residency in 2017, supported by Africalia and the British Council with participants from East Africa, South, West and Northern Africa, the US and Europe and was piloted 2019 in Tanzania with support from individual patrons, Burning Man Global Arts Grant and Techne from the Arts and Humanity Council in the UK, featuring artists from East Africa, India, the US and Europe.
Blinky Bill is one of the trailblazing musicians in East Africa - With his first solo album, Everyone’s Just Winging It And Other Fly Tales (Lusafrica/The Garden), DJ, rapper and producer Blinky Bill puts Kenyan modern music on the global map. He is also a TED Fellow, alumnus of the Red Bull Music Academy and frequently featured at Design Indaba.
JOJO ABOT, who was artistic director for EAST17, is a nomadic interdisciplinary artist exploring evolving themes of spirituality, identity and community with SELF as the starting point to collective evolution.
With an exciting, budding career, ABOT has toured with Ms Lauryn hill, played stages like Afropunk, Roots Picnic, Radio City Music Hall, The Apollo, Kennedy Center and more while being the first unsigned artist to perform live for NYC’s Times Square New Year’s Eve concert to over a million people.
An alumni of the New Museum’s incubator program, NEW INC and former resident at National Sawdust, ABOT continues to develop and present her interdisciplinary practice through POWER TO THE GOD WITHIN and other curatorial projects.
Kenya-based Michael Soi is one of the regions most reknowned visual artists. In his work, he tackles current issues in politics, and offers a satirical take on the topics that occupy our public imagination. Soi draws inspiration from contemporary life in Nairobi. His work can be read as a kind photographic diary of Nairobi, offering commentary on social, economic and political trends. He delves into relationships, or what he generally calls the economics of love, the corrupting effects of power, and popular culture within the context of globalization & consumerism.
Danish born Mzungu Kichaa has spent much of his childhood living in Africa - and this is where he has transformed himself into Mzungu Kichaa which means something along the lines of "the crazy white man." Mzungu Kichaa is currently a musical star in East Africa where he broke through in 2009 with the album "Tuko Pamoja" and the hit single "Jitolee" featuring local stars Professor Jay and Mwasiti. In 2010, Mzungu Kichaa became the judge in Bongo Star Search, the Tanzanian equivalent to X-Factor, and in 2012 he released his EP "Hustle".
Maïmouna Jallow is a storyteller and journalist based in Nairobi. She is the director of arts and media company, Positively African and Reimagined Stories. She has performed her adaptation of Lola Shoneyin’s acclaimed novel, The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives on several stages from East to West Africa and Europe. She writes for Africasacountry.
She is currently a fellow of the inaugural Ford Foundation Africa #NoFilter initiative, and is the editor and curator of Story Story, Story Come. Her work has been featured on the BBC, Forbes Woman Africa, and The East African, amongst others.