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Artist Who Paints For the Blind

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Tina Benawra at her art studio in Nairobi’s Ngara estate
Tina Benawra at her art studio in Nairobi’s Ngara estate. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG 

Creating art for the visually-impaired sounds like an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. It sounds like an impossibility.

Yet once you meet Tina Benawra, the diminutive Kenyan artist who loves painting on large canvases like the one currently on display in the front lobby of Nairobi’s Hotel Intercontinental, you won’t be surprised to find that very little looks impossible to her.

Growing up in Ngara, the only little girl in a ‘hood full of busy little boys, Tina joined in on all their games, including making toy matatus and cars from Kimbo tins, soda bottle tops and wires.

“I think that’s when I acquired my taste for both art and science,” says the former biophysicist turned filmmaker turned visual artist, whose paintings literally speak to the visually impaired.

Having grown up the middle child between two brothers, Tina’s parents were conventional enough to educate their boys while encouraging their girl to get a job. Tina completed her A-levels on a scholarship but then went to work as a flight attendant.

That’s how she got to Basel, Switzerland where she found the Open University that enabled her to study and work simultaneously.

It was the sciences that intrigued her most initially. But after several years, first researching a cure for HIV/Aids, then shifting into engineering, she realised the sciences alone couldn’t satisfy her soul. So she went to study film in the UK, now realising the arts had more appeal to her over the long haul.

Having studied film editing and scriptwriting before learning a family member back home wasn’t well, Tina returned to Kenya in 2015 just in time to participate in the Machakos Film Festival. But she wasn’t ready to move back to Kenya just yet. Her home base was still Basel.

It was there that she began studying the Swiss psychologist CG Jung and the unconscious.

“I found myself buying cans of spray paint and ‘automatically’ creating graffiti on walls,” she says.

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Some of her graffiti had a more controlled and realistic feel to it, but progressively, it’s got more surreal and automatic.

Tina Benawra

Tina Benawra. PHOTO | MARGARETTA WA GACHERU | NMG

Around the same time, Tina realised her twin loves of art and engineering could go hand in hand. She’d come back to Kenya to attend her brother’s wedding; and while she was here, she took a course in welding from a friend in Mlolongo. (She wanted to weld scrap metal into a water fountain). It wasn’t long thereafter that she began meeting Kenyans who shared nearly as broad a range of interests as she had.

Before that time, Tina was flying back and forth between Switzerland and Kenya, and hadn’t settled in sufficiently to see much of the Nairobi arts scene.

But the scale was now tipping towards spending more time and doing more with her art in Kenya. That’s when she met Velma Kiome of the Christian Blind Mission (CBM) and began to see how her art could serve as a form of therapy for relieving the disabled of their sense of isolation and alienation.

When she got the call to create a painting for the visually impaired, Tina first thought of texture and the blind literally feeling her paintings. But then she decided to learn Braille, the language of the blind. Now she incorporates a bit of it into her highly textured artworks.

Her art at Hotel Intercontinental is for the visually impaired in two respects. On the one hand, it can be felt and read to be appreciated. But it can also be bought since the funds from its sale will go to CBM, to help build an art centre that will enable to disabled to paint, sculpt and get involved in expressing more of their creative selves.

Tina is already working on more artworks for the visually-impaired but now she wants to also incorporate sound into her work, creating more multimedia art.

“I also have a deep concern for the environment, so I hope to create artworks that can educate young people about the importance of protecting and preserving our environment,” says this innovative young woman who, for the time being, is happy to be working from this side of the world.

“I’ve got several new projects that I’m working on which will keep me busy here for the time being,” she adds. “So, yes, I guess I’m back, but I’m still on the move.”

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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