We are the Nest Collective: a multidisciplinary Kenyan squad working with film, fashion, visual arts and music since 2012—
How it all started—
Founded in 2012, the Nest began as a gathering place for young and emerging creators who were interested in the intersections between poetry and feminism and queer theory and design and technology - and there wasn't much room for that at the time.
For two years, we ran a program of events, screenings, gatherings and cross-discipline collaborations with artists based in the city as well as outside. After hosting an explosive gathering with Jamaican poet, activist and writer Staceyann Chin in 2013, we began to think about our own practice as the Nest.
Our first work created together as a group was the Stories of Our Lives project - a research project about the lives of queer Kenyans for which we travelled around the country and collected interviews with over 250 Kenyans who identified as queer. The result of the project was the critically-acclaimed feature film Stories of Our Lives, as well as the book of the same name that collated the stories we collected.
These two works were the first that bore our identity as THE NEST COLLECTIVE, and they changed our lives. The success of the film (which has so far screened in over 80 countries and won numerous awards), as well as the ensuing drama around the ban of the film by the Kenyan government solidified our identity both as creators as well as a family.
Since then, the Nest Collective has created works in film, music, fashion, visual arts, virtual reality and literature. The works include Tuko Macho—a groundbreaking interactive crime web series widely considered to be one of the best African TV series, Let This Be A Warning—our virtual reality short film set in a distant African future. In 2013, the Nest Collective also founded HEVA—Africa's first creative business fund of its kind—to strengthen the livelihoods of East Africa's creative entrepreneurs.
How we work—
Together we create works that explore the past, present and future of our black, African identity and the intersections of that with feminism, race, sexuality, identity. In all our works, we prioritize the acknowledgement and stating of our different individual perspectives and privileges, and our work strives to convey this dialogue.
We are a team of 12 Kenyans, and we take the idea of collective authorship very seriously, a modern remixing of the fading communal approaches and division of labor practices of some of the people of Kenya. We write, produce, shoot, publish all our work ourselves, and work hard to eliminate industry-standard hierarchies in both our work and our internal structure.
This is sometimes difficult to explain to outside parties when presenting and publishing our work, as the structures around art and culture (film festivals, exhibitions, publishers, even software algorithms) are designed around single-author works. "There can only be one director," and "the author name cannot be an institution," are phrases we hear often.
Nonetheless, we've been very lucky, our work and practice has taught us many things about the world we live in, has strengthened us as a family, has won some cool awards, has provided amazing opportunities and experiences to us, and has given us the privilege to create works that resonate with Nairobians, Kenyans, Africans and people all over the globe.
What more could we ask for?
Love and light to you all,
The Nest Collective
Members: Akati Khasiani, George Gachara, Hope Bii, Jim Chuchu, Kendi Kamwambia, Mars, Njeri Gitungo, Njoki Ngumi, Noel Kasyoka, Olivia Ambani, Sunny Dolat and Wakiuru Njuguna