It made me remember being struck by the fact that I would go to work, where I'd be told that the arts have "no market," then when I leave work I'd see adverts and bill boards for private schools which did not show kids in labs but kids doing performance and having fun. At GEMS Cambridge school on Magadi road, there's a huge wall with pictures of students in acting costume and make-up. So why would there be no market for the arts, if parents who can afford good schools are choosing where to take their kids by the presence of the arts and sports?
Meanwhile, the wealthy like the Kenyattas, Rutos and Nyong'o's do the arts, become national and international celebrities. They know that the arts is key to social consciousness and power. That's why, as they celebrate their own children doing the arts, they discourage the arts so much among the wananchi, telling them to do "useful" subjects like sciences and management to manage the bodies, machines, money and public image of those with the dreams. It's about power and control. It's the classic Dubois and Booker T debate about whether blacks needed intellectual training beyond practical subjects. And Booker T's position was the one that got more support from the American mainstream. Even during colonial times, the government did not want Africans to do the arts and A levels, because they wanted Africans as clerks and carpenters to implement the colonial system. It's the missionaries who realized that they could not convert Africans if Africans did not do A levels and the arts, so they insisted on teaching them in the Alliances, which were for the African elites and their wives (colonial governments educated African women to provide Western-style African housewives). But the public schools that put most emphasis on the arts are still the ones originally built for settlers' kids: Duke of York (Lenana), Duke of Gloucester (Nairobi School), Kenya High School, etc. A few decades after independence, the World Bank withdrew funding for higher education because it said higher education was not a priority for Africans, that what Africans needed most was basic education.
So there's a concerted war against the arts and sophisticated (theoretical) thinking for people of color. The political decision makers don't care because their kids are in private schools, starting fashion labels and winning Oscars. And then through their art, they get to perpetuate the culture and values of the aristocracy. The universities don't get it because they've been told education management is about the balance sheet, but most of all, because they have no class consciousness. They have no class consciousness because they've been told that Ngugi wa Thiong'o, ES Atieno Adhiambo and other thinkers were Marxist, and Marx was bad because he was communist. And detention, exile and stints in Nyayo house torture chambers put the fear of God into lecturers' hearts. We don't teach Fanon, Cheikh Anta Diop, Nyerere, Sankara, Mandela - or even Obama - in Kenyan universities. We're told there's no "market" for that. No-one gets a promotion for knowing what pan-Africanism is, or who Dubois, Harriet Tubman or Dedan Kimathi are.
Which is true. You don't get promoted for knowing that stuff. But not because that stuff is useless; it's because history and the arts make you a leader. They make you see and fight injustice. They make you yearn for revolution. Promotions, on the other hand, are for the employed, the clerks who want to want to earn enough to become farmers and plot owners with rental houses, and maybe become clueless politicians like Sonko who will be worshiping the aristocrat families who pass down power along family lines. So of course to them, the arts have "no market." And politicians, and their World Bank godfathers, are only too happy to keep feeding that mentality, because keeping broad historical knowledge and artistic prowess out of the Kenyan public classrooms means less challenge to their power.