“We Got This” – The Top Five Exhibitions That Stood Out at Nairobi Design Week


Article by: Amanda Nechesa

Publication date:

Everyone wears clothes. Everyone especially enjoys wearing clothes made of beautiful fabric and depicting a magnificent design or art that makes the dress, the T-shirt or the trousers feel unique to their personality. However, very rarely do people sit down and wonder – who is the genius behind this fabric I’m wearing?

Displays at the Nairobi Design Week (provided)

In essence, that is what Nairobi Design Week – an annual event that celebrates design and creativity across various disciplines including fashion, architecture, product design, graphic design, and digital media – aims to do. 

The only African member of World Design Week, Nairobi Design Week (NDW) was created by designer, facilitator and creative strategist Adrian Janokowiak in 2015. Since its inception, NDW has positioned itself as an event that promotes the local design scene, fosters talent development, and creates a platform for creative and cultural exchange. 

How do they do this? The event, which runs yearly, features exhibitions, workshops, talks, and networking opportunities for designers, artists, entrepreneurs and enthusiasts to showcase their work, exchange ideas and collaborate on innovative projects.

This year marked the ninth edition of the event which was held at the Opportunity Factory in Karen, Mbagathi Drive, and ran for nine days, from Saturday, March 9th, 2024 to Sunday, March 17th, 2024. Each year, NDW has a theme that the talents aim to bring out through their work, and this year’s theme was “WE GOT THIS”. 

Like all the years before, the ninth edition of NDW was a dazzling myriad of beautiful and unique expressions. From Creative DNA’s spectacular Fashion Installation to Sekoya East Africa’s immersive crafting workshop and the uncensored artistic expressions of Censored Arts, there was no lack of things to do and look at while at Nairobi Design Week. 

That said, some exhibits stood out even in the multitude of complex and stunning art and designs, and five of these exhibitions are: 

Creative DNA 

Creative DNA is a fashion programme spearheaded by the British Council Kenya. A movement aimed at revolutionising global fashion, the main objective of Creative DNA is supporting designers through the development of business and creative skills. 

Creative DNA designs (provided)

To facilitate this, the programme runs a business and creative incubation period in which hand-picked skilled designers are taken through a three-month period of learning, innovation and design. There have been four incubation programmes so far, and members of the fourth one, Creative DNA 4.0 Cohort, got the chance to showcase their spectacular and mesmerising work in the ninth edition of Nairobi Design Week. 

The designs showcased were meticulous as they were forward-thinking. From stunningly complex gowns that could be worn on a red carpet, to garments redesigned using recyclable material from the designers’ environment, every outfit held a statement of its own. 

Ananse Africa 

Coming a close second to Creative DNA was the Ananse Africa Fashion Installation. An e-commerce platform that showcases African Designers, Ananse Africa also aims to unlock the African creative economy, empower designers, and merge tech and fashion. 

Ananse Africa designs (provided)

Their fashion installation at Nairobi Design Week was a testament to the work they do. Brilliant African designs met beautiful fabric to create a stunning collection that left many in awe of the talented artisans. 

Manakristo Designs

In Manakristo Designs, beauty, and history meet to create a marvellous collection of art that can be used as accessories in your home, office, or any space. Their designs are unique handmade pieces that aim to highlight the local use of reclaimed wood and educate the public on Kenya’s diverse wood species, their histories, and their native origins. 

Manakristo Designs (provided)

For the ninth edition of Nairobi Design Week, Manakristo featured work by Tsedaniya, a woodworker who grew up in Ethiopia and Yemen and has a passion for all things vintage. Her work at NDW showcased stunning installations of artistic pieces, some of which included jewellery that had an Ethiopian heritage, framed inside distinctive and exquisite handmade wooden frames. 

Frida Ijai

Fridah Ijai is a Kenyan realist painter, weaver and interior designer. Her creations, which focus mostly on human figures with a bit of her personal style, ignite the senses and captivate the soul. Exhibitions of her bold and transcendental work have been put in places such as the Alliance Francaise, Affordable Art Show, and Tewas Art Gallery among others. 

Fridah Ijai (provided)

In this edition of Nairobi Design Week, Fridah Ijai exhibited merchandise bearing her beautiful pieces of art. From artsy and wearable clothes and tote bags to amazingly designed cards, phone covers, notebooks, pillow cases and fridge magnets, Fridah served everyone with a wide range of unique and affordable pieces of art. 

Content House Kenya 

The Content House Kenya is a collective of artists, photographers, and filmmakers. They are currently working on an artist exchange and a feature documentary in Turkana.  

Content House Kenya display (provided)

For their exhibition in the ninth edition of Nairobi Design Week, Content House partnered with creatives from Turkana to showcase beautifully captured photographs of the people in Turkana. Alongside the photographs, there was also an exhibition of a phenomenal traditional female Turkana wedding dress that became the centrepiece of the entire space. 

In conclusion

As much as the above list only features five exhibitions by the artists and designers, this is in no way to say that the rest of the designs showcased were not remarkable. They were, and the whole event was. At the end of it, once you had circled the Opportunity Factory one or two times, you were left with only one thing in mind – truly, there is a bright future in Kenyan art and design!