Amani Tour culminates with Nairobi special event

Picha Mtaani joins Glass House Serious Request (Red Cross, Ghetto Radio)

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An onlooker views the exhibition. Click here to see all the photos from Serious Request. Credit: Robert Munuku

The Amani Tour returned to Nairobi with a one-week exhibition on Moi Avenue, leading up to Christmas Day.

The special open air event was held in conjunction with Red Cross and Ghetto Radio, as part of an event dubbed the Glass House Serious Request, with the theme for this year being VOTE 4 KENYA, VOTE 4 PEACE.

Serious Request is an annual Ghetto Radio event held at the Hilton grounds that connects Kenya to other parts of the world via a social program and a spectacular entertainment set-up. Three DJ / presenters are locked up for 6 days in a glass house without food, focusing on a social issue. This year, Ghetto Radio listeners in Kenya will be asked to come to the Glass House, view the Picha Mtaani exhibition, donate blood, and request their favourite track, while being encouraged to vote for peace.

The Picha Mtaani photo exhibition, documentary screening, moderation and counselling were a significant part of the experience for members of the public visiting the venue, while Kenya Red Cross will coordinate blood donation activities that will be conducted across the road on the side of the Hilton bus stop.

The event ran for 24hrs a day from Dec 19th to Dec 24th, attracting thousands of participants.

 

Picha Mtaani travels to University of San Diego

Through our partners and friends at the Joan Kroc IPC, the Picha Mtaani exhibition happened at the University of San Diego.  The exhibition was running for several months leading up to the Kenyan election.
“Never Again: Photography Exhibit by Boniface Mwangi”

For an interesting analysis from Joan Kroc Institute’s Diana Kutlow:
Could Election Violence Happen Here? (in the United States)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 – Friday, February 1, 2013
Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.  Friday: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Fine Arts Galleries, Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice

Joan B. Kroc Institute For Peace & Justice |  ipj at sandiego.edu | (619) 260-7509

Choose Peace! Concert Held in Nairobi

The Picha Mtaani exhibition returned to Nairobi on Sunday 12 August, going back on display at the Choose Peace Concert.  The event featured Juliani, Avril, and various activities.

Original Exhibition Returns to Nairobi

Onlookers on Moi Avenue react to Picha Mtaani. The original exhibition returned to Nairobi as part of the Choose Peace! concert at Bomb Blast Site in early August. credit: Anjali Nayar

INTERNATIONAL YOUTH DAY 2012

EAST AFRICA “CHOOSE PEACE!” CONCERT

Sunday, August 12, 2012
1 p.m. local time
Bomb Blast Site (August 7 Memorial Park), Nairobi

Nairobi ‘Choose Peace!’ concert and conference set for International Youth Day
Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Performers Juliani and Avril and Kenyan dignitaries will tribute rising youth leadership

NAIROBI, Kenya – Rising Kenyan performing artists rapper Juliani of the Kama Si Sisi social initiative and vocalist Avril (Judith Nyambura Mwangi) will join other artists and Kenyan dignitaries at a youth-led International Youth Day “Choose Peace!” Concert in Nairobi, Sunday, August 12, followed by an International Youth Day conference August 13-15.

The youth conference is expected to draw more than 1,000 attendees from Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania, all of whom are young heads of orphaned households and participants in Church World Service Africa’s Giving Hope initiative in Africa.

Giving Hope now serves nearly 40,000 young caregivers and children in five East African countries and reaches beyond the traditional focus of simply helping orphans go back to school – instead, helping youth succeed in the family caregiver responsibilities they now shoulder – through building small businesses, pursuing their dreams, helping each other in collaborative youth working groups, and becoming voices for peace in their communities.

Described by the Giving Hope planners as “an artistic extravaganza,” the Youth Day concert with Juliani and Avril is free and open to the public. The nonprofit, community outreach concert and Youth Day conference is aimed at rekindling the spirit of peace among youth as Kenya’s December election approaches and learning from the violence that occurred following the country’s disputed 2008 election.

The Hon. Martha Karua, Kenyan Parliament member, advocate of the High Court of Kenya and former Minister of Justice, will be special guest speaker for the Sunday concert event, joining other guest speakers and orphaned youth leaders who will give testimonies and their perspectives on Kenya’s post-election violence, the Rwandan genocide, and the continued scourge of forcible recruitment of child soldiers.

Eldoret Amani Tour Cancelled by OCPD

Eldoret OCPD declined to grant permission for the Amani Tour to occur in Eldoret, two days before its launch.  The decision came despite District Commissioner support for the initiative.  OCPD officials cited security concerns due to ICC proceedings and upcoming local by-elections.

In 2010, Picha Mtaani organized a very successful, peaceful, and well received exhibition in Eldoret.  The exhibition was documented in a short video.  The Amani Tour was to add documentary film screening, theatre, and forum components to the effort.

Crowds are expected to turn out to the exhibition site regardless, due to short notice of the change.  Local officials from the District Peace Commission will continue their peace building efforts despite the Amani Tour’s cancellation.

 

Amani Tour Shut Down by Naivasha DC

Exclusive VideoDC and Administration Police Close Down Amani Tour in Naivasha

Social Media Coverage: the story on Storify, from the Sauti Project, Pawa254 citizen journalists

Photographs: Naivasha Exhibition  &  Picha Mtaani PEV Original Photos

A great peace initiative was trampled on Saturday, 28th July, in Naivasha.  The community-focused Amani Tour was shut down by District Commissioner Mohamed Abbas. Citing his orders to immediately close the exhibition, local administration police appeared at the public site, blocked its entrance, and removed the photographs.

Naivasha was intended to be the third town of a nationwide tour to display these images for the public.  Organizers had obtained local officials’ permission and permits for the event, which follows successful stops in Bomet and Laikipia in previous weeks.  The original Picha Mtaani exhibition reached 700,000 people across the country from 2008 to 2011.

Picha Mtaani’s Amani Tour – amani is Swahili for ‘peace’ – shows a narrative of pictures captured during the post-election violence (PEV) in Kenya in 2007-2008.  It includes PEV photographs, a documentary film, civic theatre, and participatory forums to towns across Kenya.  The tour seeks to inform communities and help heal the nation, towards peaceful and participatory elections.

Before its forced closure, hundreds of Naivasha residents had come to the public exhibition, viewed its elements, and participated in facilitated discussions.  The event had earlier been legally sanctioned by the DC and local district peace committee Saturday’s event in Naivasha had started with a solemn procession of locals walking through to view the photos.

After viewing the pictures, peace pledges sat at a nearby table for youth as well as elders to sign. Next to the pledge table stood a tent where the documentary “Heal the Nation” was showing.  Heal the Nation is a 30-minute documentary, a moving eyewitness account of the tragedy that befell Kenyans after the 2007 December elections. Victims and perpetrators meet as they narrate their stories on Kenya’s worst tribal conflict, which left over 1,500 dead and nearly 500,000 people internally displaced. The film is available for free duplication and online.

However, the exhibition was cut short with the arrival at about 14:15 of the District Commissioner’s representative.  He said either the organizers dismantle the exhibit or he would have it dismantled.  The orders came despite that the permitted event took place on Administration Police grounds.

When asked about the orders, the official was vague.  When Mudamba Mudamba, the project’s theater director, asked for a name, the official replied, “Just understand; I have orders for this thing to go down.” As he tore at one of the images, Brian Inganga the exhibition managers pleaded, “Please don’t tear them.”

The event was dismantled within an hour.  By 15:15 the photos were thrown to the ground, along with the stands. Youth volunteers were visibly distressed, saying “this is for peace and reconciliation.”

Project founder Boniface Mwangi complained that the orders the DC was enacting were “illegal,” and, since the organization paid the authorities for use of the grounds, he asked if they could get a refund. Irene Wangui, the event organizer for Picha Mtaani, is holding on to the receipt, which validates the payment.

The motive for shutting it down is dubious. There is a possibility, given Naivasha’s troubled past, that authorities did not want the sensitive subject of post-election violence to be discussed.

Picha Mtaani’s youth volunteers were sporting shirts with the motto, “Kenya ni Kwetu.” One volunteer joked that they should change the motto to “Kenya si Kwetu.” (Kenya ni Kwetu means Kenya is ours—changing ni to si makes it negative.) Thanks to the events of the day, the peace promoters felt that Kenya wasn’t theirs.

Newsletter: Jan 2012 edition

News and updates from Picha Mtaani, all in one place.

Grab a copy of our new newsletter:

Free E-Book “The Price of Tribal Politics”


Now available: the original e-book that led to Picha Mtaani, hosted by Scribd.

Grab a copy, flip through the pages, and view the stunning photography:

 

E-Book of Photography

Reflection on candlelight vigil from Ni Sisi!

Thanks to Ni Sisi! contributor Sammy Gitau Iregi for joining the launch and offering this reflection.

 

Nisisi

A Call of Hope

Written by blogAdmin on date 28 November 2011 in CausesConstitutionEast Africapeace through prosperitypoliticssociety.

A Call of Hope

Words By Sammy Gitau Iregi

Image by Mwangi ‘Mwarv’ Kirubi

 

“Please sir! Give me that candle so that I can light it for that picture,” young 10 year old Joseph demands.

“Why that picture?”  I enquire as I hand him the candle.

With eyes full of confidence, trust and a child’s innocence he answers, “because he is our President!”

And just like that he proceeds to light the candle.  Next to him, a younger child, about 6 years old, is being assisted to place a burning candle below pictured moments of post election violence of 2007.

Recently in Nairobi, the capital city of our nation, the Heal The Nation documentary was screened and thousands gathered from all walks of life to light up candles in commemoration of victims who died as a result of the senseless violence that followed the 2007 national elections in Kenya. Sadness was written all over the faces of the people going through the reality translation of the events that should never have happened.

A whistle was blown and the whole group stood at attention as the National flag outside the City Hall was lowered. The was blown for a second time and the Kenyan artist, Juliani, called out, “Hello, Hello! Hello!”. The crowd joined him in calling “Hello! Hello! Hello!”

A call of hope, Hello for Peace!

Hello to the trust of children, for meaningful presidency in Kenya!

Hello to the memories of yesterday, for today we commit our all to peace!

Hello to peace for prosperity of our people!

Hello to daytime peace and nighttime serenity!

Hello Kenya! Ni Sisi!

Watch the documentary ‘Heal The Nation’.

Download for free Post Election Violence Images E-book “The Price of Tribal politics” 

Due to the graphic nature of some of the images in the documentary and e-book, viewer discretion is advised.

 

 

 

 

Event analysis from Africa in Words

Thanks to Kate Haines of “Africa in Words” for joining us from Kigale!

Heal the Nation: Documentary Launch, 23 October 2011

http://africainwords.com/2011/11/05/heal-the-nation-documentary-launch-23-october-2011/

Last month I was in Nairobi for the launch of the documentary ‘Heal the Nation’.  This 30 minute film was created by Picha Mtaani (Swahili for ‘street exhibition’) a UN-funded initiative that focuses on reconciliation through ‘photographic exhibitions and debate’ set up by 27-year-old photojournalist Boniface Mwangi.

As violence broke out after Kenya’s 2007 election, Mwangi quit his job as a journalist and risked his life to travel around Kenya documenting what was taking place.  Mwangi’s photos were published in edition 5 of the literary journal Kwani, which attempts to ‘provide a collective narrative on what we were before, and what we became, during the epochal first 100 days of 2008’.  My research on contemporary Kenya writing is currently focusing on Kwani 5 and I am particularly interested in the ways in which the texts published in this journal emerged out of the literary network and google group ‘Concerned Kenyan Writers’, as well as the way in which these texts have continued to circulate in different public spaces.  Mwangi’s photographs were also published in the book Kenya Burning, a co-publication between Kwani and the Go Down Arts Centre (who curated an exhibition of the same name in April 2008).  Picha Mtaani have exhibited photographs from Kenya Burning across Kenya and these images have been seen by over 500,000 people.  The documentary is based on footage of this travelling exhibition; it shows both emotional reactions to the photographs themselves, and shares the narratives of victims and perpetrators prompted by their encounter with the exhibition.  Picha Mtanni are hoping to reach 3 million more people with these images and stories through the circulation of the documentary.

The free launch event took on City Hall Way in the city centre of Nairobi outside Nairobi City Council, overlooking Nairobi Law Courts and the Kenyatta Conference Centre.  From 10am Picha Mtaani’s exhibition of photos documenting the post-election violence was on display, and by positioning this in a public pedestrian area it drew in a constant stream of people.  From 10am to the screening of the documentary at 7pm people crowded around the images and it was often impossible to get close to them.

One of the reasons I travelled from Kigali to be at this event was that across the day, building up to the screening of the documentary, was a programme of poetry and theatre which focused on sharing literary responses to the post-election violence.  The poetry performances were curated by Njeri Wangari, also known as Kenyan Poet, and featured Teardrops, Ban 2 Slim, Harry the Poet, Akil (El Poet) Wario Hellen, Ndanu and Njeri Wangari herself.  Wangari commented that poetry is often associated with expressing love and joy but that here it was being used for ‘reconciliation and speaking out’ and another compere commented ‘‘we are not only here to be entertained but to make a lasting impression.’  Over the afternoon as poetry in English and Kiswahili was shared with a small audience and drew in a passing crowd, audience members were encouraged to partipate not only in refrains (for example Wario Hellen’s ‘Kenya is for you and I’) but also in discussion and debate about Kenya’s past, present and future.

Break-time productions then performed a powerful theatre piece in Kiswahili directly in front of the photo exhibit.  This was one of the first times that the attention of passers-by turned almost entirely away from the photographs and towards the performances.

This piece in Kiswahili involved an extremely animated and physical confrontation between three characters, with a panga used as a powerful visual ‘prop’.  Again it was an interactive piece with the surrounding crowd encouraged to chant and raise their hands.  The performance was repeated directly before the documentary screening, with one member of the cast introducing it as about ‘where we’ve come from and where we would not want to go back to.’

As the sun set 1,133 candles were lit by members of the audience and placed in brown paper bags before the photo exhibit, as a striking visual act of memory for those that died in the violence.

Directly before the screening of the documentary speeches were made by donors who funded the making and production of the Heal the Nation, including USAID, the Swiss Embassy in Kenya and UNDP.  Swiss Ambassador Jacques Pitteloud, who was ambassador in Rwanda during the genocide, gave a speech sharing his experiences and drawing parallels between the events in Rwanda and the post-election violence.  He emphasised the importance of remembering out of respect for the past, but also for the present and future.  He highlighted that in Rwanda that there had been a history of smaller massacres and violence from the 1960s onwards, hinting that there could be worse to come for Kenya if issues of healing and reconciliation aren’t addressed before the elections in 2012.  Yet he conspicuously failed to highlight that for Kenya too the post-election violence was not a one off, something that Picha Mtaani’s chair responded to and emphasised in his speech that followed.

This event was interesting and important for my research in a number of different ways:

  • Given my focus on the relationship between writing, publishing and memory, it was great to be able to witness first-hand literary and artistic responses to the post-election violence evolving into different media and spaces in a dialogic way (social media guru Philip Ogola who was onsite to spread the word online told me he reached over 800,000 people with tweets about the event).
  • For me it was also significant that while the focus of the event was very much on memory and remembrance, this was placed in the context of the more specific and urgent aim of healing and reconciliation in advance of the 2012 elections.  The more I work on literary responses to the post-election violence in Kenya, the more I see that the work writers and artists are doing in relation to memory is quite different from texts that take on ideas of history and memory in a less immediate context.  Having recently seen Yusef  Komunyakaa in dialogue with the Kenyan poet Sitawa Namwalie, it was striking that while for both poets ideas of history and memory are central, it took Komunyakaa 40 years to be able to write about his experiences in Vietnam.  How do time, distance, silence, urgency, the project of reconciliation, change what I’m asking about these texts in relation to their intervention in cultural memory?
  • Kwani 5 was funded by the Ford Foundation, and I want to do some work on the role of external funding and donors in relation to the literary and publishing space, and particularly in relation to memory.  How does the gate-keeping role of funders shape the space of cultural memory?  What is the difference between art playing a role in reconciliation and art playing a role in cultural memory?  The prominent space given at the launch event to the voices of donors has given these questions a stronger emphasis.
  • Finally, again and again in conversations I’m having about history and memory in relation Kenyan writing, the subject of Rwanda returns.  Seeing a connection between the post-election violence in Kenya and the Rwandan genocide being made again here has prompted me to think more seriously about the ways in which I might want to take on ideas around memory and East Africa in my research.

The event finished with one of the victims of the post-election violence who shared his story during the documentary, addressing the audience and explaining why for him this project was so important.  His words were a powerful comment on the role of storytelling and memory and so I want to end with them here.  Having lost his brother in the violence and now working to support his brother’s family, he commented that without initiatives like this ‘we die with our stories’.

The Launch in Numbers

Here are some numbers from participation in the Heal the Nation launch. Stay tuned for updates!

On the ground on October 23:
1000 full event participants
5000 exhibition viewers
1096 peace pledges signed
1000 film DVDs distributed

Online:
3000 viewers online in first 3 days
3000+ tweets, 500,000 Twitter audience, 1.8 million impressions in first three days
3000+ Facebook fans