World-renowned Kenyan photojournalist and activist Boniface Mwangi will speak at Austin College Tuesday, April 9, at 11 a.m. in Hoxie Thompson Auditorium of Sherman Hall. His lecture, “Never Again! The Struggle for Peace and Reconciliation in Kenya,” is free and open to the public. At 4:30 that afternoon, Mwangi’s free exhibit “Never Again!” will open in Ross Gallery of Forster Arts Complex.
Mwangi also will speak at the College’s Amnesty International Awareness Dinner on “Democracy and Human Rights” Wednesday, April 10, at 6 p.m. in Mabee Hall of Wright Campus Center. Those interested in attending should contact the Amnesty International chapter president Kyle Potaniec.
For four years, Mwangi held a staff photography position at The Standard, the second largest Kenyan newspaper, taking on various assignments of increasing responsibility in a number of countries. He became the eye of Kenyans during the 2007 post-election violence and courageously captured thousands of images, some so gory that they could not be published.
Following the political resolution to the election crisis, Mwangi started to see himself as a visual artist, using photography as the vehicle for social change in Kenya. His focus was the fight against the impunity of politicians in the face of over 1,000 dead and half a million people displaced. “Boniface’s images are crucial for the healing of our nation; his ability to stay focused and inject a sense of artistry into his work is a testimony to the spirit of professional journalism,” wrote Jackson Biko after Mwangi was voted Kenya Photojournalist of the Year in 2008 by readers of Adam, a prolific men’s magazine in the country. Since then, Mwangi has continued to work as a freelance photographer for Bloomberg, the AFP, Reuters, the Boston Globe, and other media outlets while building a movement for social change in Kenya through “Picha Mtaani” (Swahili for street exhibition).
Mwangi’s photo exhibit aims to heal the scars of Kenyans and draw attention to the dynamics of the violence to prevent a repeat during the elections of 2013. Mwangi founded Pawa254 as a collaborative hub where journalists, artists and activists could meet to find innovative ways of achieving social change. The hub already has had many functions, including “Heal the Nation,” a very successful initiative to show a half-hour documentary about post-election violence to as many Kenyans as possible and facilitate discussions around the film. The campaign is accompanied by a more shadowy graffiti campaign that has evoked strong reactions and fired up the youth of Kenya and the world, as images of the clever graffiti grace the pages of the world’s newspapers.
In 2009 United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton commended Mwangi for his work during the post-election violence. She wrote, “Your photography is absolutely stunning and tells an important and powerful story for the world to hear.”
Mwangi’s work has appeared in virtually all the important newspapers in the world, from The New York Times to The Guardian, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, The International Herald Tribune, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Boston Globe and the BBC Focus on Africa magazine, among other international publications.
He has been recognized as a Magnum Photography Fellow, Senior TED Global Fellow, Acumen Fund East Africa Fellow, and twice has been named the CNN Multichoice Africa Photojournalist of the Year, among other awards. Mwangi lives in Nairobi with his wife and three children.
Documentary filmmaker Cassandra Herrman is making a film featuring Mwangi and will be filming his campus visit.
Mwangi’s visit is supported by Austin College Amnesty International, the Convocation Fund, Student Life, the Non-Profit Organizations and Policy program, and the Robert & Joyce Johnson Center for Faculty Development and Excellence in Teaching.
Austin College is a leading national independent liberal arts college located north of Dallas in Sherman, Texas. Founded in 1849, making it the oldest institution of higher education in Texas operating under original charter and name, the College is related by covenant to the Presbyterian Church (USA). Recognized nationally for academic excellence in the areas of international education, pre-professional training, and leadership studies, Austin College is one of 40 schools profiled in Loren Pope’s influential book Colleges That Change Lives.