Creative? Meet Liz Kilili: Chief mechanic at Creative Garage
Liz Kilili is the Driven and slightly eccentric creative, mostly known as the Chief Mechanic and founder of Creatives Garage. She has achieved more for the creative industry in East Africa in a short while than others have in a lifetime.
Her brainchild Creatives Garage and its accompanying creativity and innovation Sondeka Festival, have spearheaded projects and movements that have helped the creative industry grow in both policy and output and still continue even after the project goals have been brought to fruition.
Liz kilili’s end goal is for all creatives to network, share ideas, collaborate, learn, gain market accessibility and push boundaries in order to contrive a sustainable creative economy that feeds into the GDP of Africa rather than one that saps from it.
Here is her own blast from the past, attempting to explain her creativity:
When is it that I knew I was a creative? Well…
Could it be that day when I was young, probably the height of a normal dining table, that I started what was my first business? See, I grew up in Eastlands, (well, other Eastlanders ‘catch’ when I say this though) because in as much as Buru (Buruburu) was in Eastlands, guys from Jeri (Jericho), Jerusalem and D (Dandora) considered Buru too punk (as Ian Slim describes it) to be classified as Wasee wa East. Yet everyone on the other side of Uhuru Highway considered Buru too ghetto to be classified as a Punk location. So, literally we were those proverbial middle children who really didn’t know what role they play in the family but I digress.
Anyway, I was the only kid in my estate who had a bike (my bike was a hand me down from my sisters before me) but I made money from it. I would charge my peers either a fiyu (50 cents) for half a circular round the estate or a bob (Kes.1) for a full round. I was kinda a ka-rich kid as I would be able to afford more mabuyus, kashatas, pussycat, Big G’s and goodie goodies (oh! goodie goodies) than the other toi’s (children) in my hood.
So, this bike… I remember it was a blue bike (not a BMX mountain bike) but a good one all the same. At the time when I had this bike, my brother worked at a pharmaceutical company as a sales guy and he had these mabati signs of Eno and Panadol that used to be hang in kiosks that have long since been replaced by grand signs and billboards. He had so many of them in the house for distribution that his room was literally a store. In the annoyance of having to go round these signs and getting scrapes while at it to the rain seasons when I was not allowed to venture out with my bike. An idea came to mind…What if I took these mabati signs that were a nuisance in the house and created a body for my blue bike? This would mean I would be sheltered from the rain as I rode it around the hood (meaning my customers would not mind using it and paying me while at it during these seasons) and I would get rid of these signs (at least some) while I was at it.
This idea was genius at the time (still think it is). I remember sketching ideas upon ideas. My ideation process brought so much joy but that hope was soon crashed when my brother gave me empty promises of helping me to work the hammer and nails to create and prototype my idea.
Or then again was it the time I wanted a doll so bad but my mum wouldn’t budge buying so I ended making my own and creating a whole kingdom full of them. See, I used to traverse between CBD to get to school. Moving from Eastlands all the way to Kilimani to go to one of those academies. To keep up with the Joneses I’d go back home in my frustrations and create my own dolls from cut up papers, make cars from my mathematical sets and houses from cardboard boxes (of course I wouldn’t dare tell the other kids from school that my toys were paper cut outs) but I loved getting out of this world and into a world of imagination where I’d play god. My dolls would have up-to-date clothes drawn on them…they’d have intricate haircuts…wear glasses…look like geeks and jocks alike. They’d go to school, get married become doctors and mechanics and musicians. They’d go through joy and sadness, through fear and adversity. They were my dolls and I loved them so.
So, you still ask when it is I knew I was a creative? I don’t know, maybe It’s easier if you asked me when I started breathing.
Liz Kilili’s story is a clear tell that we the extraordinary is born from the ordinary.
Here are more details about some of her initiatives:
Sondeka Festival isn’t just about the music, it also focuses on innovation and innovators in Kenya. Every year features innovators from all over the African continent. This year looks to build on that. With a theme of ‘We Are The Ones’, the 2015 Airtel Sondeka Festival looks to those artists and innovators who are championing the creativity. This isn’t just or wealth and job creation but also creativity used to address societal challenges.
Creatives Garage was formed out of past frustrations faced by its founders in the creative industry such as lack of funding, under pricing, lack of talent appreciation, me too-ism syndrome, education and practical sessions, lack of networking opportunities, undercutting and lack of exposure lead to the realization of creating a platform that could address these issues. Creatives Garage is a multi-disciplinary collective space for creatives to network, share ideas, collaborate, learn, gain market accessibility and push boundaries.
They are working with visual artists, performing artists and tech innovators who are social change agents in the society we live in. They believe that the key to solving society challenges is through social innovation, creating a sustainable cultural network and market accessibility. Creatives Garage advocates for a society fueled by creativity.
Liz Kilili was also featured on Pearls And Heels by Rayhab Gachango You can find her on Social Media here: Chief Mechanic (@lizKilili) on Twitter and Liz Kilili on Facebook