Young Cultural Innovators Join Forces in Magazine Global Fundraiser

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Dec 07, 2020
by Josh Wilde
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Young Cultural Innovators Join Forces in Magazine Global Fundraiser

Salzburg Global Seminar Fellows Lai, Xochitl Calix, and Moira Villiard come together to crowdfund emerging artists’ magazine Image: Usanii Magazine

Launched in April 2020, Usanii, the Swahili word for artistry, is a free magazine that features developing musicians, photographers, poets and more to raise awareness of their work and enable collaboration with established artists.

The magazine founder, Lai from the Nairobi Hub, participated in October's Young Cultural Innovators Forum (YCI) and wasted no time in joining forces with fellow YCI members Xochitl Calix and Moira Villiard, from the Detroit and Upper Midwest USA Hubs respectively. Their initial crowdfunding target is $10,000 to support his publication that showcases emerging artists from underprivileged backgrounds.

Embodying Salzburg Global Seminar’s mission to bridge divides, expand collaboration, and transform systems, Lai is now calling on more YCI Fellows to join his campaign.

“The whole idea of fundraising was really pushed by two YCI members, Xochitl and Moira,” he says. “They have been very instrumental in helping initiate what to look at and how to package the magazine. I have been reaching out to different YCIs from Europe, Australia, the US, Asia, and telling them about the magazine.”

Lai’s own story is inspirational. Growing up in the Kawangware slums of Nairobi, Kenya, his idea for the magazine started two years ago with just a pen and paper.

Saving up money to cover the cost of accessing a computer at an internet café, Lai produces the Usanii magazine and accompanying Conversations YouTube series, from interviews and design to editing and running the social media accounts.

“I cannot overstate how crucial [the crowdfunding] would be,” he explains. “I work as a music teacher. I earn around $6 per lesson. Out of that $6, I’ll probably use $5 at the Internet café. 60%-70% of my monthly income goes to the magazine.

“The fundraiser would allow me to buy a laptop most importantly, and a printer so I’m able to print the magazine myself at a lower cost.”

Still operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, Lai does not charge for the magazine, hoping its free accessibility will help the artists’ stories reach more people. Lai’s vision is to support global artists’ voices and provide opportunity for anyone who needs it.

Money raised will be used to buy essential equipment, hire staff and grow the publication. A percentage of funds will be donated to selected organizations that promote this fundraiser.

Villiard is working with Ugandan artist Steve Boyyyi to create paintings of African life which will be sent to those who give $150 or more. Lai says these donations will be split between Usanii magazine and Boyyyi, whose foundation supports Ugandan street children.

A painting of three zebras, in front of green foliage and a blue sky background      A painting of a person in blue and white clothing, walking with a dog by their side. They are holding some wood in one hand and carrying bananas on their head. The background is yellow and orange      A painting of two giraffes and two elephants by some water. One of the giraffes is having a drink. They are in front of a yellow, orange and red background

Images: Paintings of African life / Usanii Magazine

Should the crowdfunder reach Lai's ultimate target of $25,000, he hopes to utilize connections made through the YCI Forum to start monthly training and seminars from February 2021, where artists in Kenya will get a chance to interact and learn from YCI Fellows.

“We already have Fellows who have expressed interest in offering training in different fields throughout 2021,” he beams.

You can find out more information and donate to Usanii magazine through their GoFundMe page: https://gf.me/u/y8icmi