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.
Behind the Brush Stroke art exhibition was launched on 8 December 2016 at the Shifteye Gallery in Nairobi, Kenya. The exhibit will be shown in Kenya and internationally, as part of the campaign to raise awareness about enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings in Kenya and to increase calls for a judicial commission of inquiry.
© Amnesty International

“The justice system is put in place to give the [people] assurance of hope, trust and a sense of security for their well-being. A total disregard for human life is rife [here] hence fear defines the daily routine of the people. Their lives are broken apart, and also rudely interjected with uncertainty and loss.” Absalom Aswani, artist.
©Amnesty International

Beyond Words by Absalom Aswani. “The masses are left with a bad taste in their mouths, distrust in the laid out systems, hopelessness, distraught and a deep sense of betrayal is clear in their eyes! Questions linger in the minds. One is engulfed in deep sorrow and mourning that no amount of either wailing or talk can fully convey the situation. Hence one resorts to hide behind momentary veil of weak or false hope.” Absalom Aswani, artist.
©Amnesty International

John-Allan Namu, investigative journalist with Africa Uncensored, discussing the ‘Face of a Nation’ painting. “…In the placement for a nation, the desolate moment of a mother goes beyond sudden loss of life of a son and hope for the future. This exposes the rot and degradation of simple human values of worth and love for one another and concern for life in a nation,” Absalom Aswani, artist.
©Amnesty International

The Land of the Forgotten. “I could hear the lamentation and desperation from the victims’ families [in the documentary] because they do not know where they [the victims] are. The families [may] be in anguish but they should be given the respect to bury their loved ones,” Wambui Kaggai, photographer.
©Amnesty International


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