Boniface Mwangi (1983, Taveta) is a photojournalist and exemplary photo-activist. Inspired by photography’s role in raising consciousness of the Ethiopian famine, he taught himself photographic skills and submitted images to the East African Standard’s ‘Face the Facts’ column. The newspaper offered him a job and Mwangi, aged 24, covered Kenya’s 2007 election campaign and its terrible aftermath. Despite great personal danger, he recorded the intercommunity violence that left more than 1,500 dead and hundreds of thousands injured or displaced.
Determined to make a difference, Mwangi quit his newspaper job in 2008 and set up Picha Mtaani (‘street exhibitions’) to promote non-violence and reconciliation by engaging people directly. He took his photos of the post-election violence onto the streets in the 10 most affected cities and towns, often at the actual sites where violence occurred. More than 700,000 Kenyans, including many victims and perpetrators, came face-to-face with the graphic evidence and participated in dialogue and counselling. Some 35,000 individuals completed surveys giving their views on community violence and national healing, and 61,000 signed a peace pledge.
Many mini exhibitions were also held in smaller centres, more than 20 in 2010-11 alone. Mwangi produced Heal the Nation, a film documenting the interventions, which he made publicly available on YouTube. He is involved in graffiti activism, launched Pawa254 as a collaborative space in Nairobi offering visual media resources and youth training, and has given talks on reconciliation in Kenya, Ethiopia and Congo. Picha Mtaani is now being used as a model in other African countries. Boniface Mwangi is awarded for his evocative photographs on challenging social issues; for creating a powerful new approach to processes of community and communal self-reflection and dialogue; for highlighting the importance of direct grassroots interaction to achieve post-conflict reconciliation; and for his brave efforts to reduce violence and build peace through culture.