Four years ago, I quit active journalism because l had grown frustrated hearing politicians tell lies to Kenyans every day.
My swansong in journalism was the coverage of the post-election violence, itself an enduring symbol of our collective failure. I knew I wanted to do something, but privately, l struggled with the anger that comes with helplessness.
On June 1, 2009, I joined other Kenyans marking the Madaraka Day celebrations at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi. When Mwai Kibaki, the Kenyan president, rose to speak, l shouted him down, before I was spirited away by security agents.
Over the past three years, I have sought expression in different forums and, in the process, suffered beatings, arrest and court arraignments over my activism.
But that did not discourage me.
I founded Picha Mtaani – a travelling exhibition that is part of my effort to foster dialogue, reconciliation and healing in our country. And then late last year, l moved this vision further by setting up Pawa254 – a collaborative space that brings together journalists, artists and activists seeking innovative ways to achieve social change.
This creative hub has already achieved many successes during its short run, the most memorable being the ‘vulture graffiti’ project – a series of murals depicting Kenyan politicians as vultures – that captured the imagination of the nation, and beyond, as we provoked Kenyans into thinking about our so-called leaders and their greedy ways.
When the ‘vulture graffiti’ became public, and I was required to step forward and set the record straight, my actions were misconstrued as being intended to launch my own political career.
Many people, some of them well-intentioned, have been encouraging me to consider running for elective office. For a moment, I even considered it. But the pursuit of power would mean my young children would be dispossessed of their father, and most of the ideals that I stand for would be vigorously contested.
I am still convinced that I can be more effective as a visual artist – as this offers me a wider constituency across the nation and beyond. Moreover, as my mentor Mohamed Amin proved, one does not have to be in politics to bring about change in society.
In line with this vision, I am working on an online platform, Mavulture, to continue the quest for change.
Mavulture.com will be a multi-media online platform that aspires to provide the unvarnished truth about Kenya. Using a network of professional and citizen journalists, we intend to increase societal surveillance through the real-time publication of perspectives that are not always heard.
Our mission is to develop and nurture, through training and publication, citizen journalism in Kenya as a way of fostering transparency and accountability in our country.
By creating a new generation of online writers, photographers, artists, illustrators, cartoonists, video editors, designers and vigilant citizens, Mavulture.com will help make Kenya a better place through the empowerment that comes with information, and the recognition that an expose of any wrongdoing is a deterrence against future abuses.
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