From Nairob Kenya, comes another bright beam on Mama Africa’s lovely face. Boniface Mwangi
Boniface Mwangi has been an awesome inspiration, addressing the problems in his homeland the best way he can. A photojournalist and firm advocate for the rights of the people, Boniface gave up his promising commercial business to create solutions to the many challenges he has faced.
He took this road, for the reason he understands more than anyone.
“With a photo, you can define a moment and change the conversation – and that’s why I became a photographer,” the 32-year-old tells CNN.
Earlier in his career, Boniface covered the 1998 U.S Embassy bombing. Ten years later, he was propelled by the escalating ethnic violence that followed the disputed 2007 election, to become an activist for social justice.
Born in Taveta, on the Kenya-Tanzania border, Boniface lived with his mother, a business woman who traded across the border. At age six, he was moved to live with his grandparents in Nyeri, Central Kenya and later relocated with his mother to a low income suburb of Ngara, before settling in Pangani. During this period, Boniface faced several challenges. At different times, he dropped in and out of school and helped his mother sell books. He also encountered linguistic challenges, having learned Kiswahili from birth – the country’s national language that is widely spoken across East and Central Africa.
Today, Boniface Mwangi is living his dream- advocating for the rights and interests of many and working with creatives — photographers, designers, musicians, filmmakers and more — to highlight issues and drive for social change.
Despite not having a high school education, Boniface managed to gain a place at a private journalism school. To fund his studies he had to continue selling books on the street, while practicing and gaining experience as a photojournalist and published his works in the national newspaper The Standard. In 2005, he won his first photography prizes and in a space of three years, received international recognition as one of Africa’s most promising photographers.
For Boniface, that marked the beginning of great accomplishments. In 2008 and 2010, he received CNN’s Photojournalist of the Year Award. Also in 2008, he was short-listed for Sony World Photography Awards, World Photography Organisation and the America Pictures of the Year International Award.
A year later, he was commended by Hilary Clinton, USA Secretary of State and in 2010; he was honoured with the Foreign Correspondents Association E.A Photo of the Year 2010 and also CNN Africa Photojournalist of the Year 2010 and also became a Ted Fellow.
In 2013, he became a Senior Ted Fellow and also received the Society of Emerging African Leaders Award.
His first initiative was the project Picha Mtaani, Swahili for street exhibition, showing photographs of the violence after the national elections in 2007, between the different tribes. This travelling street exhibition was shown around the country to over 600,000 people to discuss reconciliation and promote national healing.
Following these initiatives Mwangi developed a stronger human rights stance in his work on combatting (political and corporate) corrupt practises, speaking out against bad and corrupt political leadership and promoting a message of peace for the elections planned for 2013 with initiatives called MaVulture and Kenya ni Kwetu. Kenya Ni Kwetu (Kenya is our Home) is a Nairobi-based lobby that strives to enable a patriotic citizens’ movement to take bold and effective actions in building a new Kenya.
Boniface’s latest initiative is Pawa 254, a hub for artists and activists to work together towards social change and advancing human rights Kenya society.
He is married to Hellen Njeri Mwangi, a source of strength for his initiatives and the mother of their three children (Simphiwe, Sifa, and Mboya).
© 2016 – 2017, Lovelyn Okafor. All rights reserved.