EAS checked in with Gadi Ramadhani for an update on the growth and development of Koko'TEN Studio, its new space, projects and future plans. EAS first partnered with Gadi on an exhibition in Dar Es Salaam and Lusaka that he curated entitled Last Image Show in 2018/19, featuring young artists from Tanzania and around the globe. Gadi’s passion, know-how, and ongoing dedication to learning and supporting artists in Tanzania and beyond continue to inspire and light the way for young artists everywhere. We are pleased to include excerpts from our dialogue with Gadi here.
All images used are from KokoTEN social media posts
'Koko' signifies 'grandmother' in Maa, the ancestral language of the Maasai people. Additionally, the term 'Koko' holds significance across various Bantu languages, representing a Queen Mother, advisor, caretaker, and the revered source of advice, wisdom, and clan heritage. As for 'TEN,' its meaning is dual-fold: firstly, it commemorates my birth on April 10th, and secondly, it symbolizes our aspiration as Koko'TEN to engage in a maximum of 10 projects annually, operating exclusively for 10 months each year.
Reflecting on the past 12 years, since its launch, feels like just yesterday. While I had envisioned this journey before, the reality has surpassed my initial expectations. Throughout this time, I've embraced continuous learning, driven by numerous occurrences and insights. These experiences have guided me towards discovering the optimal operational approaches, ensuring transparency to the public, and establishing a sustainable model that extends its benefits to the broader community, even encompassing Dar es Salaam itself.
Koko'TEN Studio is currently situated in its new studio in the City House building within the Metropolitan area of Dar Es Salaam, at the intersection of Samore Avenue and Mkwepu Street. We are hosting an Open Studio celebrating makers in the space October 14th. Our plans for this location in the coming year, and into the future, are centered around fostering a vibrant hub of creativity and cultural engagement. We envision this adaptable and independent space to serve as a versatile platform where our programs and creative practices unfold before reaching the wider public. Alongside our goals of cultivating artistic growth and innovation, we are excited to offer an array of activities.
In the immediate year ahead, we're focused on curating a series of captivating exhibitions that will invite viewers to immerse themselves in carefully selected artworks, each telling its own compelling story. We're also enthusiastic about hosting art workshops that encourage skill development and knowledge exchange among both aspiring artists and seasoned creative minds.
Looking further into the future, we plan to expand our range of offerings, fostering deeper connections with the local art community. This includes facilitating thought-provoking curatorial discussions and exchanges that stimulate critical conversations about the role of art in our society.
The metaphor of a creative kitchen guides our philosophy, and we intend to see it come to life through continued collaborations and partnerships. Just as a kitchen is the heart of a home, we aim to be the heart of artistic expression and dialogue in our community.
Ultimately, our aspiration is for this space to continue enriching the cultural landscape of Dar Es Salaam and beyond, becoming a destination that inspires, educates, and serves as a catalyst for creative exploration. We are excited about the journey ahead and the meaningful impact our studio and curatorial hub can have on the art scene and our community.
Proof Studio Project
Genesis and Development
The core motivation behind this printmaking initiative is to empower fellow artists, providing them with a toolkit to navigate the art landscape more effectively. By broadening their artistic horizons and enhancing their market reach, Koko'TEN aspires to contribute to a more sustainable and thriving artistic ecosystem in Tanzania
Koko'TEN received two rounds of funding for this project. Initially held in Kigamboni at the end of 2020, the second round was held in March 2023 in Dar es Salaam, Kigoma and Dodoma, concluding in an exhibition at the Dar Es Salaam National Museum.
The project, supported by the Feel Free Grant program implemented by the Nafasi Art Space and funded by the Norwegian embassy and Switerzland Embassy in Tanzania is designed to provide encouragement to artists, cultural practitioners, organizations, and institutions from all artistic disciplines who love to create and connect with art - without placing restrictions on themes or topics that are driven by external influences.
The inception of the project followed numerous inquiries from fellow artists, curious about how I engaged with audiences and sustained myself solely through art – a challenge that often proves demanding for many artists in Tanzania. As a printmaker, I contemplated various aspects. I pondered whether Tanzanians hold a deep appreciation for art, if they have access to it, and if the prevailing prices make art attainable for local enthusiasts, considering our economic context. Addressing these inquiries led me to conceive the concept of imparting printmaking skills to fellow artists. This approach aims to equip them with a fresh perspective on the art market. Printmaking, with its capacity for producing multiple copies, lends itself well to this endeavor, enabling artists to offer prints at price points accessible to the local art-loving community.
The core motivation behind this initiative is to empower fellow artists, providing a toolkit to navigate the art landscape more effectively. By broadening their artistic horizons and enhancing market reach, we aspire to contribute to a more sustainable and thriving artistic ecosystem in Tanzania
The genesis of this project feels like a beautifully intertwined journey, where the vision of Koko’TEN harmoniously converges with Proof Studio's aspiration to uplift Tanzanian artists. Our aim is to not only educate fellow artists in the intricacies of art practices like printmaking but also to extend this knowledge and creativity beyond the boundaries of Dar Es Salaam, reaching wider audiences. A pivotal role in this endeavor is played by Nafasi Art Space, an entity with which I had the privilege to collaborate years ago as a Project Manager.
The idea took shape as I pondered the potential impact of concentrating our efforts. While my passion for printmaking remained a cornerstone, the project's scope expanded beyond personal preferences. The desire was to equip Tanzanian artists with a holistic skill set, enabling them to thrive in the broader art scene. Monoprinting and Woodcut print serves as a foundation, but the ultimate goal is to empower artists to explore diverse avenues within the art world.
Thus, the project's conceptualization is a fusion of my dedication to monoprinting and woodcut printing, the experience gained from collaborations like Nafasi Art Space, and the overarching vision to nurture a robust artistic community in Tanzania. This holistic approach embraces both local artist empowerment and the dissemination of art knowledge, fostering a full-circle moment that encompasses both my artistic roots and the broader artistic landscape.
The second round of Proof Studio workshops culminated in the FILIMAYAA exhibition at the Dar Es Salaam National Museum in July 2023, and was an incredibly gratifying experience, marking a significant milestone for Proof Studio's journey. The opportunity to showcase the artworks created through the workshops within the esteemed walls of the National Museum carried a sense of pride and achievement. Witnessing these pieces come to life and finding their place within such a respected cultural institution was truly heartening.
The outcome exceeded our expectations. The exhibition not only attracted a diverse audience from various parts of Tanzania, but also fostered engaging dialogues and conversations. It was invigorating to see the artworks resonate with viewers, sparking conversations about art's role in our society and the unique perspectives each artist brought to the table. It also provided a chance for participating artists to connect and network, sharing their insights and creative journeys. This exchange of ideas among artists from different regions added depth to the event, creating a dynamic and united artistic atmosphere. The success of the exhibition affirmed the value of the skills imparted through Proof Studio's workshops. It encouraged us to continue pushing boundaries, providing platforms for artists to express themselves and contribute to the artistic tapestry of Tanzania.
The FILIMAYAA exhibition at the National Museum of Tanzania remains a testament to the collective efforts of the artists, the studio and the broader artistic community, inspiring us to keep evolving and expanding our horizons.
The next step for Proof Studio involves building upon the momentum generated by our recent successes. We are committed to expanding our reach and impact within the Tanzanian artistic community. Our focus remains on empowering artists by providing them with essential skills and insights that enhance their presence in the art world. We plan to continue organizing workshops, exhibitions, and engaging activities that foster artistic growth and dialogue. These initiatives will not only provide artists with valuable tools but also connect them with wider audiences, both locally and beyond.
Additionally, we are exploring collaborations and partnerships that align with our vision of cultivating a thriving and inclusive art ecosystem. As we move forward, our aim is to contribute to the development of a robust and sustainable artistic landscape in Tanzania, where artists can thrive, express themselves, and find new avenues for creative exploration.
LAST IMAGE SHOW | 2024
Building on ideas from the Last Image Show | 2018/19 done in collaboration with EAS, plans for a new iteration of this exhibition are underway. It will take place in Dar Es Salaam, at Alliance Française who also hosted the 2018 exhibition.
END NOTE: ART & EMPOWERMENT
Through Koko'TEN and its evolving projects, my aim is to provide students with confidence in practicing art-making, along with fostering a heightened awareness of diverse approaches to comprehending the context of visual arts. I believe that teaching techniques and methods not only offers students an opportunity to engage with the medium, but also empowers them in the process.