Art Mashariki meaning art from the East, is a new marketplace for professionals in the fashion, photography and related creative industries to connect and showcase their art to the world.
Founded by Liz Ng’ang’a, Art Mashariki hand-picks the best of their work and presents it in a searchable catalogue of portfolios.
“East Africa is full of talented creatives and artists, who are all online and connected. Currently though, the profiles and portfolios are spread over so many platforms, websites and blogs that it can be hard to get an overview of the industry as a whole,” Ng’ang’a told TechMoran. “I’m a photographer myself, and know from first-hand experience how hard it can be to get your work discovered, and I know from friends who are models or creatives that people just want to be sure they’re doing the best they can to make their skills known.”
According to her, Social Media has provided a great platform for people to share their art and make connections, but because it depends on growing a network of followers, being successful on social media takes its own set of skills and talents that are entirely separate from the creative work you’re trying to promote.
“Our hope is to create a platform that’s an even playing field, where creatives, artists and models can stand out by just focusing on presenting their best work,” says Ng’ang’a.
When a user signs up for Art Mashariki, the team will walk them through filling in simple biographic and professional information that lets people find you on the site. It’ll then get into the main part – picking the best photos and videos to show off your work to showcase the best of what everyone has to offer, so the team works with you to ensure it’s publishing your best work, and making your portfolio as good as it can be.
Once a portfolio is live, visitors to the site can search through the catalogue and contact people directly.
“We don’t aim to be the middleman, our goal is to make connections in this industry easier, not harder. Once you find someone you’d like to work with, you can just contact them directly through the contact information published on the site,” she says.
Ng’ang’a’s current plan is to build up the site by getting as many of East Africa’s amazing artists and creatives on the site. The start charging an annual subscription fee to host a portfolio on there, but the medium-term aim is to build up a valuable resource for the fashion, artistic and creative industries in the region, and think more about a business model once they learn more about what gaps remain in the industry. Ng’ang’a says the team is quite confident that sustainable business can be found they focus on connecting the right people and creating obvious value through the service they provide.
There are plenty of international model catalogues, and of course many great photography sharing services. Modelisto’s Kenya database (ke.modelisto.com) does feature a good pool of Kenyan models but being East African -focused makes them stand out and most of the photos are not hand-picked so not as high-quality as Art Mashariki.
“Photography is a hobby of mine, and I’m sure we can all relate to the dream of making our living doing what we enjoy. For that reason Art Mashariki is an idea that’s close to home for me – I think the beauty of the internet is that someone like myself, with no technical background, can now have a vision like Art Mashariki and just go out and make it happen,” Ng’ang’a concludes.