Love Matter Africa: #LoveAwards

As campaigners took to the streets of Nairobi calling for the Pope to protect their children from comprehensive sex education, we were launching the Love Matters Music Awards; the first music awards in Kenya dedicated to providing young people the chance to produce songs on themes related to pleasure and sexuality.

Covering everything from how we deal with rape as a society, to longing to have sex after a “dry spell”, Love Matters Africa released 15 completely original songs around themes related to love, sex and relationships as part of the project. Each track was composed and performed by musical talent from the record label Penya Africa and their artist development program, Sauti Academy.  Alongside an international creative team, they built on themes identified as central to young Kenyans’ sexual attitudes and experiences as identified through research led by the Institute of Development Studies.

The tracks were judged across two separate categories: The Judges’ Choice, selected by a panel of media, music, development and sexuality experts; and The People’s Choice, that was decided by an online public vote.

Over 30 pieces of national and international media coverage

loveawards6,jpgThis activity explored new ways of integrating the provision of online information with offline activities, harnessing the power and appeal of popular culture to engage urban youth around love, sex and relationships. Through music and by working alongside “credible sources” for our target audiences, as well as teaming up with non traditional allies, we were able to publicly address sensitive subjects, typically not addressed by Kenya’s mainstream media, including gender-based violence and discussion about what constitutes good and healthy sex.

I learned that it is difficult for people to get information. As an artist I want to help others. I am from the slums. In my environment people don’t know where to turn to. Their parents are so harsh on them. As an artist we play a major role to make that bridge. It is important that people can discuss freely. Artists can use their own experiences. I learned that we can use our own feelings to express ourselves in a way that others can relate to

Juma (participant) during exit interview

Beyond those participants directly involved in the project, the videos of the songs received over 100,000 views in less than two weeks, with the activity achieving more than 30 pieces of media coverage across print, online and radio, at both a regional and international level. Biggest hits included The Guardian, The Huffington Post, One World

and This is Africa, as well as Kenya’s biggest national newspapers, entertainment sites and radio stations: Mpasho, The Star, People Daily and Ghetto Radio.

loveawards4While the awards themselves formed the core of the project, Matters of Love: The Show was developed and presented as part of the creative process and final output. This was a live and completely original production exploring expectations around love and sex, and responsibility in relationships. It was conceptualised and rehearsed over an intensive workshop period, drawing on the themes identified as part of the guiding research. It incorporated spoken word, drama, music and rap, as well as a number of the song entries from the Love Matters Music Awards. For many of the participants, this was the first time they had performed as part of a wider group. All of the content came directly from them, shaped by their own experiences and from what they had shared during the project, incorporating English and Swahili, as well as Sheng.

This project is an example of multi-media intervention that can be scaled up and reproduced, yielding new insights in working effectively on sexual health for young people in on and offline spaces. Operationalising action research, online and offline social mobilisation, PR outreach and community based art production, we were able to take these subjects to a public forum, effectively pulling in youth and media who would otherwise be difficult to reach for awareness-raising.

Over 100,000 video views

Over 180,000 people reached on twitter