You know that feeling when you keep seeing some group of people doing amazing stuff and elevating eachother creatively and going to amazing places and everyone just seems so nice and brilliant and you can’t wait to see what they’re up to next and also you just want to talk to them so bad because you have developed some kind of creative crush and this is such a long sentence? Well, that’s how we feel about the SanaaStory team. This group of young Kenyan creatives are just one big beautiful adventure and so we decided to ask them all about the trips, fashion, events, smiles and other magic that appear in our feeds, the BAKE nomination and how this whole wondrous thing works. After picking Karuga Kahindo’s brain the MiKe-crush has now taken new heights. We love SanaaStory and what they are doing, and we just can’t wait to see all the things that they will create and the places they will show us! But first – meet Karuga Kahindo and SanaaStory!
Many of us have seen SanaaStory content appear here and there and also heard about your BAKE nomination (CONGRATULATIONS!!). But what exactly is SanaaStory?
DK: SanaaStory simply put is a creative investment company that invests in creative ventures. This is with a vision to promoting a financially sustainable environment for creatives while encouraging unbound artistic expression. At the moment we are running projects in fashion, travel and events. We currently fully fund all our projects, though in the initial stages we received financial help from relatives and friends.
The creative ideas that our team come up with, can be in fashion, events, travel or music. In all these ventures, we seek to create financial self-sustainability, which is a challenge with the arts especially in this country. Financial stability as an artist in Kenya is difficult as majority of people do not seek to pay artists who work for them and ask them instead to work for free and in some cases jobs for certain kinds of art is simply not available. This however does not mean that being an artist cannot be a source of livelihood. Plenty of Kenyans are successful as artists. The idea is to understand the business of your craft just as well as the craft itself) as well as growing the community with the content that we continuously put out and encouraging artistic collaborations.
What does the name mean?
KK: “Sanaa” is the Swahili name for art. We believe that each piece of art work tells a story of the creative, be it of hope, ambition or despair. This story gives meaning to the artwork. Therefore, for us each creative venture that we set out on has a story behind it that we would like to tell world. This story, our story, carries the hope that it will inspire and embolden those who are on their creative quest, as well as those who would like to start.
How did this all start?
KK: It all started in 2014 with a group of friends who shared a passionate love for expression, creativity and learning. We first set out to create a platform where artists could sell their work online. After creating the website we thought it a good idea to hold a street event, SanaaCulture, to bring together artists and buyers in a very relaxed environment. The online shop didn’t happen as we realized we could work better with artists in a more integrated fashion, such as collaborative projects and then share this work with the public. In this way we are creating a space that allows us to have meaningful relationships with artists.
We sought to have the event in Cactus Street, Runda. An upmarket suburban estate as it was our reasoning that this would mean a higher probability of having the artwork sold. We worked with a young talented artist called Elsardt Kigen, the legendary Leonard Kateete and Lydia Galavu of the National Museum of Kenya to bring together this first event. About 20 people came for the event and rather than demoralize us, this gave us much more motivation since it was evident there were people out there who wanted to interact with art in a much more informal setting.
A month later we held our second street event in the same location and we saw the numbers shoot to about 80. There was growth and it continued to serve our purpose and drive. Since then we have held three more SanaaCulture events at locations such as The Village Market and Michael Joseph Center.
Apart from SanaaCulture, we have also developed two other internal projects; SanaaFashion and SanaaWanderlust. SanaaFashion is an urban fashion brand that takes its influences from the company mask which is a symbol of our appreciation for traditional African culture as well as our SanaaWanderlust project which involves a lot of traveling thus comfortable travel wear such as jackets and jumpers. SanaaWanderlust is our latest project which aims to explore the creative wonders of the world that we live in, with a focus on Kenya and Africa mostly.
The mountains, the desert, the sea just to mention a few are magnificent on their own and our work is to combine these natural features with creative concepts that ultimately encourage more people to go out and see them and also shift the idea of travel to one of travel with purpose. SanaaWanderlust trips are categorized in to Culinary Trips, Creative Trips and Cultural Trips. Culinary Trips have the aim of exploring the culinary options of a particular destination e.g. Swahili and seafood in the Coast. Creative Trips are with the aim of utilizing the environment as a creative space, be it in photography, music or fine art. Cultural Trips have the objective of exploring the cultural influences of a particular place achieved by integrating with the people while partaking and learning of their customs.
Why do you do this?
KK: We do this because we want to shape our own destiny and earn a living doing the things that we love to do. More than this, we love to do this because the awareness and consciousness that our projects have brought together a lot of creatives and have inspired a lot of learning and collaboration, lends purpose to the work that we do, and it’s wonderful to see the community grow through this.
Who is in the main core team?
KK: It’s difficult to highlight a few people who are part of the main core of the team as we have worked and learned from various integral people, but those who are involved in everyday running of the Company are:
- Marshall Kiganjo – Our Lead Graphic Designer who has ensured all the visuals that have been put out have given credibility to the brand.
- Karuga Kahindo – Lead Creative Director who churns out the ideas and works with the logistics that bring everything together.
- Njeri Waweru – Lead Legal Advisor who always keeps us on the right side of the law as well as keeping us out of any trouble.
- Gideon Munyua – Financial Officer who makes sure we are running the business as efficiently as possible as well as proper management of funds.
And then there is a larger team, right?
KK: As mentioned above we have worked and grown by working with various incredible people who are a part of the larger community of Sanaa;
- Kevin Kariuki – His creative influence helped us grow significantly and he is currently running a brilliant visual agency that provides high end tailor made event and commercial photography known as Iris Live.
- John Kadivane & Ianson Krigla – We worked with them as they ran a campaign a wonderful campaign known as Art for Change/Room for Giants that was aimed at using artwork to save the wildlife. They introduced us to various artists which led to our growth. They are currently running a Digital Marketing & Graphics Company known as Creative Salad.
- Zalika Creatives – We are currently working with them towards growing our brand digitally as they are fantastic in Digital Marketing.
- Lindsay ‘Dawn’ Adhiambo – Head of the Art Department and Creative Director she is concerned with the collaborations that occur with various artists as well as the kind of art that is on display during SanaaCulture.
- Felixie Laurens – Creative Director of SanaaWanderlust as he lends his vast experience on travel. (Link 500px – Felixie Laurens)
- Ciano Maimba – An incredible singer who has performed at SanaaCulture and continuously supports us by participating in our creative collaborations.
- Lydia Galavu – As the head of the art department in the National Museum of Kenya, she gave us incredible insight in to the world of art in Kenya and gave us opportunities to meet people along the way who could assist us, not to mention being always available for advice.
- Leonard Kateete & Elsardt Kigen – They are the first artists we have ever worked with and the belief and support we received from them when we first started gave us a lot of confidence moving forward.
- Osii G – An upcoming local hiphop artist who showed confidence in us from the beginning and continues to grow within the community. He is also a big fan of our camo collection.
This is all a very ambitious venture. What is the most inspiring and/or rewarding part of this journey?
KK: The most rewarding part of the journey so far has to be the nomination we just received from the BAKE Community where we were nominated for the BAKE Awards, Best Photography Blog category. This showed us that the work that we continuously put out is not in vain and there is someone out there appreciating our output.
The most inspiring moment however of our journey is each time we visit a place we have never visited before. Over the Labour Day weekend we visited Mt. Kenya and hiked up to one of the four major lakes on the mountain, Lake Ellis. It’s awe-inducing to see such a marvelous natural feature, serene and beautiful, untouched by man. Getting to such places is always inspiring.
And what are the biggest challenges?
KK: The biggest challenges often come during planning and logistics. Be it planning for a trip or an event, organizing a large group of people to coordinate their timing and movement is always difficult and requires a lot of patience. Through these challenges we have become more resilient and patient. We integrate better systems that acknowledge the challenges and that bring coordination to our work, and apply patience in allowing these systems to settle and work).
Future plans for SanaaStory? What is the next big step?
KK: Future plans for SanaaStory. At the moment we are focusing on the three current projects; SanaaCulture, SanaaFashion and SanaaWanderlust and building them up before undertaking any other. They are all good ideas and we believe with increased focus and more organized and visionary work we could make them successful.
A major step that we are looking to take is with SanaaWanderlust, is to bring more variety to the trips in terms of destinations. There will be camping and self-catering lodging trips but we will also work with various hotels to provide some luxury to those who are not interested in roughing it out. We are also broadening our target market, in the past we have focused mainly on young college students/fresh graduates and we still consider them to be our core market but we also do consider the young adults who seek a new way of traveling and exploring, that is the integrated and purposeful trips that we offer.
Your dream destination?
KK: Our dream destination currently is between Lake Turkana and Marsabit Forest. North Eastern is spectacular and we would like to document and experience this hidden gem in our country.
How do you choose your destinations?
KK: We choose our destinations at the beginning of the year based on terrain, region and our aim (be it a cultural trip, a creative one or a culinary one where we sample the cuisine of a place). We then create a travel calendar and make it available to the members of SanaaWanderlust.
Can anyone join?
DK: Yes, anyone can join. The registration form is on the website with all the details and terms and conditions. It’s open to anyone who loves adventure and is willing to be pushed away from their comfort zone.
You have just been to Lake Ellis. Tell us about that trip?
KK: Lake Ellis as mentioned before is one of the four major lakes on Mt. Kenya. It’s at 11,000 feet above sea level and is famous for its large trout. The beauty about Mt. Kenya is that the attraction there is not just the summit. There is such a diverse eco-system that exists that will keep you captivated at any given time. The hike to the lake proved this to us. With views of the Billiards Table Mountain, the impressive Mugi Hill, a 50 meter high waterfall and the Mau Mau caves, we were always engaged with the surroundings.
We also spent a lot of time with the tour guide and KWS Officer who accompanied us and it was beautiful to hear their stories about the mountain and how much love they have towards it, having dedicated a large portion of their lives scaling it and protecting it. Mt. Kenya is revered by all those who are familiar to it and as we spent time on its slopes we could understand why. By the time we got to the lake we were cold and wet but the magnificent view of the lake was worth every step. Getting back to camp in the evening we had visitors in the form of waterbucks and it was just the perfect way to end our trip. To read more about it and to view pictures, the post is up on our website.
Next trip is to Samburu. Why did you choose this destination and what is the plan? Can anyone join?
KK: We chose Samburu because we want to start exploring North Eastern Kenya. It is a good start for us as it’s not too far inside the region and offers unique fauna such as the reticulated giraffe, the oryx and the Grevy’s Zebra. We shall be staying at the Ashnil Camp which is located on the banks of Ewaso Nyiro, on a full board basis. The trip will also include a game drive within the park with an experienced tour guide, a sundowner by the River Ewaso Nyiro and a nature trail. Anyone can join on this trip and all they have to do is register on the website or contact us directly.
For people who read this and feel curious about what you’re doing and a desire to join in some way, what are the ways to connect with you guys? To stay updated, be part of it or collaborate in some way?
KK: For anyone interested in collaborating with us, we are available via email – firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also available on phone – +254708761922. We also have Community Guidelines on our website that will assist anyone who wishes to collaborate to understand our work ethic. For those who wish to keep updated on our work, we are quite active on social media especially Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as well as our website www.sanaastory.co.ke.
What do you wish more people knew about Kenya?
KK: That Kenya is a land that is blessed with culturally rich and diverse landscapes and people. It’s easy to get bogged down by the constant negative media coverage about our country with the corruption scandals and such, but just a bit of digging beneath that uncovers a world that is sculpted for the adventurer and enormous for those with an insatiable taste for life and love. You just need to get ready to look, as it gifts those who seek.
Thank you SanaaStory, please keep inspiring us!
ALL IMAGES PROVIDED BY SANAASTORY