Accepted paper:

The rise and fall of an art-inspired youth movement in Kisumu, Kenya


Frederik Unseld (University Basel)

Paper short abstract:

My paper considers the demise of a youth movement in Kisumu, Western Kenya, geared towards peace during elections. The apparent "failure" of the movement to become more institutionalized in the long-term, allows to highlight challenges such initiatives regularly experience.

Paper long abstract:

My paper considers the case of a youth movement in Kisumu, Western Kenya, that originated in 2012, in the wake of the general elections which succeeded the elections of 2007, that saw a nation-wide wave of ethnic violence. The name of the movement, "Sitarusha Mawe Tena", translates from Swahili as "I won't throw stones again", referring to the use of stones as fighting tools in Kisumu during that time. The movement had been founded partly with government support, partly with support by international peace organizations, and at one point even attempted to become a movement with nation-wide ramifications. Through analysis of the dense photo and video documentation of the movement's activities, and through data gathered during field research in 2015 and 2016, I intend to depict the activities and work of the initiator of the movement, Boniface Ogutu, as well as his movement's recent disintegration. I will explore the tensions which community activist like Ogutu regularly experience, juggling between a genuine desire for change, hand-to-mouth survivalism and highly unpredictable donor funding patterns. The apparent "failure" of the movement allows to draw important lessons for our understanding of everyday politics in Kenya and its (im)possibilities for change.

panel P084
Youthful agency, art practices and the right to the city