The exhibit had been up for a day and a half in Naivasha, and was going very well, when the police arrived and ordered us to take the photographs down. Since we had not only obtained a permit but were renting a plot of land from the police to display the exhibit on, we were somewhat confused. They gave us no explanation. We later learned in the press that the police had received their orders from local MP John Mututho, who said the exhibit was causing “unnecessary tension.”
We’ve held this exhibit in dozens of cities, and have always had a very good reaction from visitors. When they see the graphic photos, which were sometimes taken in the places they live, some of them cry or get angry. But they aren’t angry about us showing the photos. The issue is a political one – this is the third time our exhibit has been shut down [see videos of earlier closures here
], and it is always, in my opinion, because of politicians who are afraid that if their constituents are reminded of what happened, they might lose votes in the next election [in March 2013, Kenyans will vote not only for their next president but also their members of parliament, senators, and governors]. The pictures don’t lie – that’s why they’re not very popular with politicians.
While we try to fight these closures in court, our organisation simply doesn’t have the time or the resources – we would rather bring our exhibit to more places and impact more people.
A child examines a photo taken by our Observer during the post-election violence. All photos courtesy of Picha Mtaani.
“We advise visitors to the exhibit to use their votes wisely so that they don’t elect troubled men who will cause more trouble for our country”
Our goal is to use these photographs to create dialogue. When we engage in debates with visitors to the exhibit, we never tell them who to vote for, but we do advise them to use their votes wisely so that they don’t elect troubled men who will cause more trouble for our country.
Kenyans are still living in denial. Thousands of people who burned property, looted, and raped have not been brought to justice. So there’s a lot of anger and frustration among victims. We need not just justice but also reconciliation, so that this pent-up anger does not lead to more violence.