Cradle Arts Festival

The World Health Organization defines mental health as a state of well-being in which individuals can realize their own abilities, cope with the normal stresses of life, work productively and fruitfully, and make contributions to their communities. How many of us can honestly say that we effectively cope with everyday stress all the time? Mental distress affects everyone.

In Kenya, one in four people lives with mental health challenges, with the youth being the most vulnerable and affected by mental illness. Low levels of awareness, inadequate access to care, stigma, and high costs of care are among the reasons for this. Globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds, and in Kenya, the numbers are rising, having increased by 60% in the last decade.

We believe that talking about mental health is the first step towards changing the narrative. By doing so, we can make it more acceptable for those with mental illnesses to seek help, learn to cope, and get on the road to recovery. Additionally, talking about mental health provides information and understanding to those with family or friends who struggle with mental illness.


Cradle Arts is a non-profit organization that was created through a collaboration between Mental360 and Headspace254. Its mission is to change the way that Kenya talks about and understands mental health by working with artists.

Art can powerfully convey messages and break down complex topics in a way that reaches deeply into people’s psyche. Cradle Arts works with artists to harness this power and break the shackles of stigma associated with mental health. By delivering positive messages in varied contexts, Cradle Arts hopes to create a new cohort of young artists who can raise mental health awareness across the country.

Cradle Arts has a vision of building a generation of empowered change-makers who can define mental health in Kenya and use the skills they’ve learned to take on other social or human rights issues.


“Creativity in and of itself is important for maintaining health, remaining connected to oneself, and staying connected to the world.” – Christianne Strang, Professor of Neuroscience.

Most of us struggle to find the right words to describe mental illness. As a result, the majority of information about mental health comes from politicians, academics, religious leaders, and medical professionals. It’s a highly intellectualized subject and the language used by these groups can be difficult to understand, digest, and personalize.

Art transcends the intellectual. In any form, art brings the artist and the viewer together in personal dialogue. It has the capacity to touch people’s emotions in a deep, unified way. Art is personal and relatable. It affords the creator profound catharsis and can bring the viewer or listener courage, hope, and inspiration.

Art as a form of mental health treatment dates back to the mid-20th century, when soldiers returning from the battlefields of World War II were left with a condition known as “shell shock,” but is now called post-traumatic stress disorder. Veterans painted, drew, sculpted, and used other forms of art to help process what they had witnessed and experienced at war.

“They struggled with traditional forms of medical and therapeutic intervention,” says Girija Kaimal, an art therapist at Drexel University and the president of the American Art Therapy Association (AATA). “Experiences like trauma are very difficult to articulate into words, so therapies that can support and connect patients with nonverbal expression are really the foundation of creative arts therapies.”


On October 26th, 2019, the Inaugural Cradle Arts Festival hosted more than 700 people in Nairobi. The focus was on challenging preconceived ideas about mental health through artistic expression. The festival showcased live music, spoken-word, personal storytelling, poetry, dance, visual art, and theatrical performances.

The anecdotal feedback for the Cradle Arts Festival was resoundingly positive, with many demanding that it become an annual event. Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, the festival was unable to be staged in 2020, 2021, and 2022. We look forward to bringing it back in 2023!


The Cradle Arts Festival 2023 is scheduled for October 28th – 29th, 2023. Our goal is to attract 3,000 in-person attendees and 100,000 online views. After a positive response to our first festival in 2019, we strongly believe that this festival will become one of the most impactful annual social events in Kenya.

The festival aims to provide an outlet for people to share their experiences, discover their authentic selves, learn from peers and professionals, and strengthen social support systems. It will be an exciting and eclectic extravaganza of thought-provoking performances and interactions, all geared towards inspiring festival-goers to build mental resilience and embark upon their own journeys to wellness and self-discovery.

The festival will be streamed on a variety of platforms, including YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and the Cradle Arts website. Our goal is to reach a wide and diverse audience from all over the world.

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