As part of this year’s Afrika Handmade Symposium and Gallery, we have introduced the Lifetime Achievement Awards, in recognition of individuals who have contributed significantly to the social, cultural and economic landscape of handmade and design in Kenya.

The award ceremony, slated for 17 October, from 6pm at the Alliance Francaise Nairobi, will be officiated by Chief Justice Willy Mutunga and will mark the end of Afrika Handmade 2015.

Beyond being a one-time opportunity to honor these individuals, we hope that the award will encourage a widespread culture of consistently applauding those giants on whose shoulders we have and continue to stand on.

Recipients of the 2015 AH Lifetime Achievement Award

For raising the profile of Kisii soap stone carving: Elkana Ongesa is arguably one of the most respected stone carvers in the world. His pieces can be seen at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris and the US embassy in Nairobi, among numerous other international sites. He is founder of African Stones Talk, an annual forum that seeks to create an appreciation- beyond the cursory- for Kisii soap stone. Besides putting Kenya on the global art map, perhaps Elkana’s other significant contribution has been in raising the stakes of a practice that would otherwise be relegated to the backwaters of rural Kisii. By establishing an art institute and hosting the annual African Stones forum right where the actual mining and carving takes place, he has focused attention where it is needed most- on artisans working at the community level, thereby creating a collective sense of self worth and pride.

For collection and preservation of African cultural heritage: Alan Donovan hit the headlines last year due to a controversy surrounding the African Heritage House and the construction of a standard gauge railway line. Far from over, the debate rages on and none is closer to certainty on the future of the ‘most photographed house in Africa’ nor the 6000 rare handmade items housed therein. Despite the ongoing situation, we are pleased to confer this award on Alan for his efforts in creating the treasure trove that is the African Heritage House. With his partner the late Joseph Murumbi, he founded Africa’s first and largest pan-African gallery, sourcing art and craft from all over Africa and in the process providing a powerful testament of a rich, culturally vibrant continent that did not at all fit the derogatory description of being dark and devoid of any civilization.