Have You Ever Been to This Town Called Kitale?

Kitale is a small agricultural town in the north-west of Kenya, the administrative capital of Trans Nzoia County.

Peter Pages Bwire

11/12/20201 min read

Kitale is a small agricultural town in the northwest of Kenya, the administrative capital of Trans Nzoia County. The modern town as we know it was founded in the early 1900s by colonial settlers who owned big farms in the area. It was initially part of Uganda until the borders of the East Africa Protectorate were redefined and it became part of western Kenya.

The artistic history of Kitale is hardly accessible or recorded anywhere, but over many years there have been communities of art producers creating and distributing art to niche audiences. Many times when a wave of new artists has risen, the vibrance of the town has increased, having a ripple effect on tourism and business. Because the town is on the foot of Mount Elgon, with various natural attractions, this has always been a welcome phenomenon. The cosmopolitan nature of the town has also made for eclectic displays of art and culture during annual school music and drama festivals.

Over the past few years, communities of filmmakers have come up and worked around writing stories and producing them. While some are organized in groups which occasionally find ways to pool resources and make a film or two, many people who are interested in filmmaking lack the direction or opportunity to pursue their interest. Those who are able to progress most likely move out of the town and end up in other towns where the struggle for survival as artists chokes them and forces them to other careers.

This deprives their local community of their contribution and the artists themselves of their own future.

The path for them is not bleak though. A few filmmakers and artists have been able to write and produce stories which have been shared across the country and elevated these storytellers to bigger platforms. Even though the challenges of developing, financing, producing and distributing films still loom large, there have been encouraging signs through the efforts of groups and individuals that show how film can transform the social and economic trajectories of these individuals and their entire communities in various ways, including high-level community engagement on a wide array of subjects.

Given the current opportunities that have presented themselves to us, we think it urgent and timely to put great effort in the development of the next generation of storytellers and film audiences.