Congratulations to the women of SWAN Day Kenya for their successful “Pre-SWAN” event on Saturday, February 6, 2021. The theme of their event was Creativity Takes Courage, and the courage of the women of SWAN Day Kenya is an inspiring example for us all.
Like their sisters in other countries, the women artists of Kenya have had an extremely challenging year. Many have lost their jobs, some have lost family members. They have experienced deep political divisions among their own citizens and heart-breaking examples of systemic injustice.
In the midst of all this stress, it takes courage to get out of bed some days, and it can be even harder to find the focus to make art. But the women of SWAN Day Kenya are addressing these challenges and finding ways to help each other.
In fall 2020 they organized an online series of SWAN Mental Health gatherings to provide a place to talk about the emotional challenges of being unable to work as artists during the pandemic. In spite of spotty internet access and extremely limited finances, they found ways to stay connected and they looked for ways to move their work online.
They decided to do a “pre-SWAN” event and to stream it live on Facebook to share it with the world. This lively and heart-felt event included singers, dancers, and spoken word artists, including the popular Kenyan rapper, Pizo Dizo and Lydiah Dola, winner of the 2017 SWAN Day Song Contest. You can watch excerpts on SWAN Day Kenya’s Facebook page.
In order to affirm their solidarity with women artists around the world, they invited Jennifer Hill of SWAN Day Connecticut to perform two songs virtually as part of their event. Hill urged them to “continue fighting the good fight” with the hope that “love will win out in the end.”
The Kenyan efforts are a wonderful reminder that as artists, we are problem-solvers. We create things, we can imagine a better world, and we work to make it happen. Yes, it takes courage and perseverance, but if we stand together, we can do amazing things.
About SWAN Day 2021
Although most people will not be able to do live SWAN events this year, WomenArts would like to encourage you to carry on the SWAN spirit in whatever ways you can. If you are able to do an online SWAN event or if you want to post blogs, photos, music, or videos that celebrate women, trans or non-binary artists, please use the hashtag #SWANDay2021 so that others can see what you are doing.
As the Kenyan women have shown, the most important element of SWAN Day is mutual support, and we want to emphasize that this year. Even if you can’t do any kind of event, we invite you to find ways to celebrate SWAN Day through creative acts of kindness to those around you.
Please take time to reach out to the women, trans, and non-binary artists in your life, especially the ones who are struggling. Write them letters, call them up, bring them food, or send them gifts. Use your creativity to let them know how much you appreciate them and their work.
In these challenging times, these simple acts of kindness have tremendous power. If we work together as the Kenyan women have done, we will help each other find the confidence and courage to keep making our art and keep making the world a better place.
Background on Support Women Artists Now Day/SWAN Day
For those of you who are new to Support Women Artists Now Day/SWAN Day, it is an annual international holiday which is officially celebrated on the last Saturday of March ( March 27 this year). Since the spirit of the event is more important than the exact date, people usually hold SWAN events throughout the month of March (Women’s History Month) and sometimes in April. There is an overview of SWAN Day here.
SWAN Day was co-founded by Martha Richards, the Founder and President of WomenArts, and Jan Lisa Huttner, the Editor-in-Chief of FF2 Media and the creative force behind WITASWAN (Women in the Audience Supporting Women Artists Now). It was first celebrated in 2008, and there have been over 2,000 SWAN celebrations in 37 countries since then. In the SWAN Day section of the WomenArts website, you can read more about the history of SWAN Day, and you can see videos of some of the past SWAN events, including celebrity SWAN videos by Sandra Oh, Isabel Allende and Famke Janssen. You can also see the annual lists of past SWAN events, and you will find many articles in the WomenArts blog describing past SWAN events.