Kenya: Behind the brush strokes, art meets human rights

Cases of killings of young people have been on the increase in Kenya and yet are rarely investigated. While the state has not formally documented the number of people extra-judicially executed and disappeared, media reports indicate that enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions are a systemic problem in Kenya. In the first 10 months of 2016, approximately 177 people were reported to have been killed by the police.

Yet, when confronted with human rights reports or media accounts, Kenyan authorities deny or dismiss the existence of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions. The majority of extrajudicial executions are preceded by enforced disappearances, which significantly increase when security agencies are engaged in operations against suspected organized criminal groups. 

In this project, Amnesty International partners with 11 artists in Kenya, through the Karen Village Art and Cultural Centre. Africa Uncensored, an independent media house, has worked with Amnesty International to document the artists’ experiences of watching documentaries of victims of extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearances from different parts of the country.

The artists have produced works of art that reflect their coming to terms with this exposure. The film maker has also made a documentary showing how the behaviour and attitude of the artists evolved during this process.

I know I’m doing right by my community, we have lost so many youths in Kibera, some people think it’s justifiable that they are killed while others think it’s not fair. This is a divisive issue in the slums and I hope this will be a statement.
Steve Kyenze, artist

Through art, we can influence people to take this injustice personally, to demand not only truth and justice for victims, but a complete end to enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions.