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My First Election Day - Photo Project

17.05.2013  10:01

The project “My First Election Day” is supported by the Danish Cultural Fund. The project initiator, Dr. Martin Skrydstrup, is collaborating with the Youth Agenda in Kenya and Grundtvigs Folk High School in Denmark. The ten first time voters received a digital camera and rigorous training in photography through a 2-day Master Class conducted by acclaimed Danish photographer Maria Fonfara and award winning Kenyan photographer Boniface Mwangi .

A group of young Danes are also producing similar photo diaries at Grundtvigs Folk High School to ensure a comparative and intercultural aspect of the project. The best pictures will be exhibited in an on-line gallery and possibly tour Kenya as a physical exhibition. Check out some the project photos for this article in our Facebook gallery or visit the project webpage here.

A lot was at stake, as the elections were the first in Kenya since the unprecedented post elections violence in Kenya in 2007/2008, when more than 1,000 people were killed and more than 600,000 others were displaced. 

“I was confident that the elections would be peaceful as the Kikuyu and the Kalenjins had come together in an alliance and as the fighting and trouble started between those two groups in 2007/2008”, says Samson Macharia, who himself is a Kikuyu and comes from Nyahururu, which was one of the 2007/2008 hotspots in Rift Valley in Central Kenya.

Actually he had to change school in 2008 because of the violence. During Election Day 22 year old Samson didn’t encounter any problems when making photographs in his home area.

“They know me. But I got problems when I went to an area, where people didn’t know me”, explains 22 year old Samson, who together with the nine other young Kenyans were selected to take part in a photo-journalistic project by Youth Agenda in Kenya in collaboration with Grundtvig Folk High School in Denmark. The project focuses on political engagement among young people in Kenya and Denmark.

Describing big news in new ways

The idea behind the project, which is funded by the Danish Embassy in Kenya through the Danish Cultural Fund, is an alternative to describing “big news” through prominent people. Instead a new type of holistic picture with different layers and new kinds of complexity from different angles is created. Dr. Martin Skrydstrup, the project initiator, explains: “The simple idea behind My First Election Day, is that professional photo-journalists, who are assigned to Kenya to cover the elections, do not have readily access to the more intimate spaces of the elections. The young participants in the project can work unnoticed in places, where professional photojournalists would never venture or would be very conspicuous. So, the idea here is to portray an historic event from a wide range of local, grounded and intimate perspectives, drawn from daily life, as a supplement to the more conventional images of public rallies with the major presidential candidates. It is simply a new form of photo-journalism from below."

19 year old Jeddy Nyaundi from Kisii County, Nyanza, in Western Kenya is also part of the project: “I was excited about voting for the first time. My parents have always voted. When I voted I thought about the violence five years ago, but I was sure peace would prevail. Peace has been preached throughout the election campaign”, says Jeddy.

Although Jeddy wasn’t prevented from making photographs most places she visited on Election Day, she did encounter problems at some polling stations indicating that although the elections were largely peaceful tension was there.

“Some presiding officers told me to go away, calling me a spy”, Jeddy recalls.

Unlike most Kenyans Jeddy didn’t vote along tribal lines.

“I voted for somebody who does not belong to my tribe. I think young people are thinking in a different way that older people, she says.