Picha Mtaani, Swahili for ‘street exhibition’, is a youth-led peace initiative that primarily seeks to create space for young people to reconcile and become agents of reconciliation to their respective communities.
Four years after Kenya’s worst election violence, which left 1,133 dead and hundreds of thousands internally displaced, Kenya is a nation in search of its identity. Picha Mtaani aims at providing a platform for national reflection and building local reconstruction consensus through photo exhibitions and conversation. This project aims at organizing target communities to play their part in the reconciliation and reconstruction process.
Through an exhibition set of images taken during Kenya’s 2007/2008 post-election violence, we hope that by staring at the horror we inflicted on each other, we can steer the individual towards personal reflection, towards a willingness to have honest dialogue, and we also hope to create a space for community healing and reconciliation.
The Picha Mtaani national peace building initiative and exhibition tour, successfully visited ten election violence most affected towns including Nairobi, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kericho, Kisumu, and has enjoyed tremendous support from the Kenyan public; this was illustrated by the participation of over seven hundred thousand (700,000) young people, the submission of over thirty thousand completed questionnaires (30,000) and the subsequent signing of over sixty-one thousand peace pledges (61,000) in our exhibitions series throughout the country.
In total, from 2008 to 2011:
- Picha Mtaani was exhibited in ten cities and towns: Nairobi, Naivasha, Nakuru, Eldoret, Kericho, Kisumu, Mombasa, Nyahururu, Kuresoi, and Mai Mahiun
- Subsequently, over 20 mini exhibitions were held, over just this past year, 2010-2011.
- 700,000 Kenyans saw the exhibition and had the opportunity to reflect on that national tragedy, engage in honest dialogue, and plan for community action.
- 35,000 people completed surveys, offering important insights arising from views of ordinary Kenyans on community reconciliation, roles and contributions of individuals to peace building, effects of the violence of their lives and recommendations for national healing.
- 61,000 individuals filled in pledge cards that committed themselves to uphold peace and promote active nonviolence.
- Videos of the exhibition have been used as a model in 10 African countries by the Africa Youth Alliance of YMCA.
Read the January 2012 newsletter for Picha Mtaani’s latest updates and plans.
Heal the Nation Film Screenings: October of 2011 marked the launch of Heal the Nation, the documentary film chronicling Picha Mtaani’s journey across the country. Through this independently produced film, Picha Mtaani intends to bring this experience to a much greater audience. The film is available online on YouTube.
To reach more Kenyans and expand the impact of Picha Mtaani street exhibitions, the team has created two large-scale initiatives using the Heal the Nation film. The volunteer-driven Slum Screenings have thus far brought the film to hard-to-reach communities across Nairobi. One hundred youth volunteers organized 800+ film screenings and discussions that reached 80,000-10,000 people thus far. The Amani Tour brings the original photographs and film to hotspot communities across the country, using dynamic theatre skits and forums to engage local communities in Bomet, Laikipia, Naivasha, Molo, and Eldoret.
Pawa254 Social Enterprise
To further its efforts and incubate other creative initiatives, Picha Mtaani has opened a creative hub social enterprise. Pawa254 is an innovative collaborative office for visual creatives and journalists in Kenya. PAWA 254 derives its name from a combination of “power” in Swahili and the Kenya country code, a symbol of national unity. This new workspace – a community facility and studio – will bring together established and aspiring young photographers, cartoonists, animators, video & filmmakers, as well as entrepreneurs and activists, to work, learn, and share in an environment that inspires creativity and efforts to bring about social change. Much more information about Pawa254 can be found at its website, www.pawa254.org.
Moving forward, Picha Mtaani targets to reach out to at least two million additional young persons in Kenya. We are working in the 210 constituencies, mobilizing young Kenyans into the Kenya Ni Kwetu (Kenya is Our Home) movement.
We at Picha Mtaani believe that together we can forgive, make peace, heal and move forward — together we can, pamoja tunaweza. And we must, because Kenya Ni Kwetu.