Welcoming AR-Residents Grammo Suspect – Rainbow Ambassador Kenya and Timeka Suspect to AR-Safe Haven Helsinki!

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Artists at Risk (AR) is very pleased to announce the arrival of Grace Munene aka Grammo SuspectRainbow Ambassador Kenya and Timeka Suspect at AR-Safe Haven Helsinki. After a lengthy visa process hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic, AR is relieved to finally welcome them to Finland. Their six-month AR-Residency at AR-SHH will include events in cooperation with Finnish friends, partners and organisations including the Helsinki Pride Community and Publics.

Grammo Suspect – Rainbow Ambassador Kenya is a rapper and spoken-word poet, an activist, feminist and pan-Africanist. Among other platforms she has initiated, in 2012 she founded Rainbow Talent Kenya, a project which aims to uplift the voices of marginalised LGBTQI+ groups in Kenya.

Timeka Suspect is a music video producer & director and has collaborated closely with Grammo Suspect – Rainbow Ambassador Kenya as her manager, producer and director and is joining Grammo as an AR-Resident for the first time.

As lyrical and pictorial activists, Grammo and Timeka are dedicated to fighting for equality through music, and by the use of still and moving pictures. Grammo’s new album Embrace Diversity, completed during her AR-Residencies, was released in May 2020 and can be found at her website and across all musical digital stores around the world.

Most recently, Grammo and Timeka contributed a video of spoken-word poetry and a little insight on the situation in Kenya to Artists at Risk (AR)’s #RiskandRebellion Symposium.

LGBTQI Activists in Kenya

In a recent interview, Grammo Suspect- Rainbow Ambassador Kenya said, “for me, self-quarantine is a way of life. Because of my physical appearance, my sexuality and my activism, I’ve been forced to stay indoors most of my life.”

As openly lesbian artists in Kenya, Grammo and Timeka have faced discrimination, harrassement and death threats and have been forced to repeatedly relocate for their own safety. Being gay in Kenya is punishable by up to fourteen years in prison.

“I cannot pursue my musical career in Kenya because most producers can’t work with a lesbian,”  she said. “And those who have no problem with it have been attacked and threatened in the past.”

“The government doesn’t want anybody to record anything that is LGBTQI+ related. I also can’t get gigs anywhere in Kenya.”

Artists at Risk (AR)’s ongoing support

Grammo Suspect – Rainbow Ambassador Kenya was the inaugural AR-Resident at AR-Safe Haven Catalonia in 2019. Despite misgivings she returned to Kenya to rejoin Timeka, where she soon became one of the first recipients of the AR Covid-19 Emergency Fund in 2020. This new AR-Residency was extended and expanded with a new grant from Protect Defenders with which AR was able to support her in Kenya and co-fund her residence and productions at AR-Helsinki.

Artists at Risk (AR) offered Grammo and Timeka an AR-Residency at AR-Safe Haven Helsinki starting in 2020, but the European response to the Covid-19 pandemic at the time meant visa-applications were not being processed. It was precisely for cases like this that AR launched its AR Covid-19 Emergency Fund in April 2020, which served as a first step towards the new AR-Bridging Fund, established with the generous support of the Kone Foundation.

Having endured ongoing persecution as vocal LGBTQI+ artist-activists, Artists at Risk (AR) is proud to be able to provide Grammo and Timeka a renewed “breather” in a supportive environment that holds up and amplifies their important musical, political and artistic work.

Artists at Risk (AR) would like to extend a particular thanks to Finnish hip-hop artist Paleface for the support he has shown Grammo and Timeka. We are eager to bear witness to the fruits of this prospective and exciting collaboration!

A warm welcome to Helsinki, once again, to Grammo and Timeka!

Related at AR:

Grammo Suspect – Rainbow Ambassador Kenya and Timeka Suspect are AR-Residents at the AR-Safe Haven Helsinki Residency. The programme is funded by the City of Helsinki Department of Culture and Leisure and coordinated by AR/PM as part of the AR-Network. 

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