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Mwangi in 2012
|Born||10 July 1983|
Boniface Mwangi (born July 10, 1983) is an award-winning Kenyan photojournalist, politician and activist involved in social-political activism through his initiative Team Courage. Team Courage is a movement that aims to instill a sense of hope and self-belief in a generation of young change makers by enabling patriotic citizens to take bold and effective actions in building a new Kenya. He is known for his images of the post-election violence that hit Kenya in 2007–2008. He is also the founder of Picha Mtaani, a youth-led peace initiative that primarily seeks to create space for young people to reconcile and become agents of reconciliation to their respective communities.
Mwangi was born in Taveta, Kenya, on the Kenya-Tanzania border. His mother was a businesswoman who traded across the border. Mwangi was moved to live with his grandparents' home in Nyeri, Central Kenya, when he was six years old. He would encounter linguistic challenges, having learned Kiswahili from birth – the country's national language that is widely spoken across East and Central Africa – although Gikuyu is the language most spoken in Central Kenya.
Mwangi later moved with his mother to live in Nairobi’s low-income suburb of Ngara, then a highrise in Majengo, Githurai 45, before finally settling in Pangani. Mwangi dropped in and out of school during this period and helped his mother vend books.
When his mother died in 2000, Mwangi, then 17, decided he had to change if he was to survive. He joined a Bible school with the intention of becoming a pastor, and secured a diploma in Bible Studies. Whilst at school he became interested in photography. He was influenced by the Kenyan photographer Mohamed Amin.
Despite not having a high school education, Mwangi managed to gain a place at a private journalism school. To fund his studies he had to continue selling books on the street, but soon began to gain experience as a photojournalist. He published photographs in the national newspaper The Standard, and in 2005 won his first photography prizes. Within three years he received international recognition as one of Africa’s most promising photographers. He was awarded the 2008 and 2010 CNN Africa Photojournalist of the Year Award.
However, he put his photography career on hold, to work on Kenyan social justice.
Mwangi quit journalism after witnessing and documenting post-election violence in Kenya in 2007 as a newspaper photographer. He experienced posttraumatic stress and depression (and he was also directly affected having to move temporarily after people of his community were being threatened). More importantly, he was frustrated he had to cover the same politicians that had incited the violence, but remained unpunished.
His first initiative was the project Picha Mtaani, Swahili for street exhibition, showing photographs of the violence in 2007 after the national elections, between the different tribes. This travelling street exhibition was shown around the country for people to discuss reconciliation and promote national healing. Over 600.000 people saw the exhibition. This was later complimented by the documentary Heal the Nation, which was shown mostly in slum areas.
Following these initiatives Mwangi started to develop a stronger human rights stance in his work on fighting (political and corporate) impunity, 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 Team Courage. Team Courage is a Nairobi-based lobby that strives to enable a patriotic citizens’ movement to take bold and effective actions in building a new Kenya.
He is married to Hellen Njeri Mwangi, who works with him on his initiatives and is the mother of their three children (Simphiwe, Sifa, and Mboya).
Honours and awards
- CSC Leaders 2016 Fellow
- Newseum Free Expression Awards-2016
- Ventures Africa: .42 African Innovators To Watch-2016
- Quart Africa Innovators 2015
- FT Magazine: 25 Africans to watch 2015
- TIME: Next Generation Leaders 2015
- New Africa: Most Influential Africans 2014
- Future Awards Africa Prize in Advocacy 2014
- Temple University USA-Society of Emerging African Leaders Award 2013
- Senior Ted Fellow 2013
- Prince Claus Laureate 2012
- My post election violence work is been used in 12 African countries as a tool for reconciliation. Picha traveling exhibitions has been seen by over 1 million people in Kenya.
- Solo Exhibitions in Germany, USA. Presented my work at UN.
- Lectured at University of Delaware, University of San Francisco and Rutgers University in the USA, University of Bayreuth-Germany
- NYU/Magnum Foundation Human Rights Fellow 2011
- FotoEvidence Book Award Special Mention 2011
- Acumen Fellow 2011
- TED FELLOW 2010
- Winner; CNN Multichoice Africa Photojournalist of the Year 2010
- Winner: Foreign Correspondents Association E.A Photo of the Year 2010
- Commended by Hillary Clinton USA secretary of State 2009
- Highly Commended CNN multichoice African journalist of the year 2009- Mohammed Amin photographic award
- Winner CNN multichoice African journalist of the year 2008- Mohammed Amin photographic award.
- Award of excellence the American pictures of the year international 2008
- Short-listed for Sony world photography award 2008.
- Won third prize in the world health Organisation photo contest in the images of health and disability 2007.
- Kenya journalist of the year awards: most promising young talent of the year and most promising young photographer of the year 2004.
- New York University Tisch School of the Arts
- Human Rights & Documentary Photography (May–July- 2011)
- East African school of journalism
- Diploma in print journalism (January 2004 -April 2005)
- Kingdom Academy-Diploma in Bible Studies (February 2003-December 2003)
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