State of Emergency. Harakati za Mau Mau kwa Haki, Usawa na Ardhi Yetu

  • When:   April 10, 2024 - June 02, 2024
  • this event is ended

PhotographyArt Exhibitions in Torino

State of Emergency. Harakati za Mau Mau kwa Haki, Usawa na Ardhi Yetu
State of Emergency, installation view

In an attempt to reconstruct and fill in the historical gaps in the official narrative of the Kenyan colonial period under British rule, with the exhibition State of Emergency – Harakati za Mau Mau kwa Haki, Usawa na Ardhi Yetu, curated by Salvatore Vitale, from 10 April to 2 June in the spaces of Palazzo Madama – Museo Civico d’Arte Antica, EXPOSED Torino Foto Festival presents a fictional documentary project, created by photographer Max Pinckers in collaboration with Mau Mau veterans and Kenyan survivors of the atrocities of war. This is the first exhibition dedicated to the project, which with its extraordinary historical importance pre-empts the richness of the festival programme that from 2 May to 2 June will feature some of the most interesting examples of international photographic research around the city.

State of Emergency – Harakati za Mau Mau kwa Haki, Usawa na Ardhi Yetu is an ongoing documentary project, which, through live re-enactments – or ‘demonstrations’ – creates a new visualisation of the struggle for independence from British colonial rule that took place in the 1950s, and which, by showing past experiences today, aims to speak to a future audience. The project weaves together fragmentary archives, photographs of architectural and symbolic remains of the past, mass grave sites, demonstrations and testimonies of those who lived through and survived the war. With colonial archives having been deliberately destroyed, hidden or manipulated, this project creates ‘imagined documents’ to shed light on the blind spots of history, filling in the many historical gaps.

In 2014, Max Pinckers was invited to the Archive of Modern Conflict in London, where he came across a collection of British propaganda material from the 1950s relating to the Mau Mau emergency in Kenya, which became the starting point of a long research into one of the most violent episodes in British colonial history.

Kenya was a British colony from 1885 to 1963. In reaction to colonial rule, the Mau Mau emerged as a freedom movement in the run-up to independence. British propaganda portrayed the movement as a band of criminal savages, while less well known is the Empire’s brutal response to the rebellion: from 1952 to 1960, the colonial administration built a network of over a hundred detention camps, torture sites and resettlement villages, and the Kikuyu – the largest ethnic group involved in the rebellion – were systematically robbed of their land, deported to labour camps and tortured. More than a thousand people were hanged on mobile gallows transported from town to town.

On the eve of independence in 1963, the colonial government destroyed most of the documentation relating to the rebellion in a process known as Operation Legacy, in an attempt to conceal its own wrongdoings.... read the rest of the article»

Subsequently, after independence, the Kenyan government made it illegal to speak or write about the Mau Mau until 2003; indeed, it was not until 2013 that the British government formally expressed its regret for the abuses suffered at the hands of the Empire, and a small group of claimants were awarded some £20 million in compensation in a trial that uncovered the Migrant Archives: a secret collection of thousands of documents relating to all 37 former colonies, once deemed too sensitive to be made public. This revelation provided many unpublished documents detailing the systematic torture of detainees during the Emergency and the knowledge of these abuses by British government officials in London and Nairobi. The fact that such important documentation proving colonial violence was destroyed created gaps in history and prevented any subsequent reconciliation processes. Reproductions of this colonial archive form the core of State of Emergency – Harakati za Mau Mau kwa Haki, Usawa na Ardhi Yetu.

State of Emergency is an attempt to collaborate, reconstruct and re-imagine possible futures of reparation and reconciliation. With the collaboration of the National Museums of Kenya, Kenya National Archives and Documentation, Nyeri Museum, Karatina University, members of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association of Kenya, Kenya Human Rights Commission, the National Archives (UK), Bristol Archives and Museums, the Archive of Modern Conflict and the Flemish Government, the project provides a collective response aiming to heal the still open wounds of colonial violence yet without erasing them, proposing a reparatory tool which, through the medium of photography, speaks truth to power on behalf of those who experienced it.

The exhibition is accompanied and complemented by a publication produced thanks to the collaboration between Max Pinckers and the Mau Mau Veterans Association of Murang'a, Nanyuki and Mukurwe-ini, initiated under the leadership of the late National President Elijah Kinyua (aka General Bahati), with the guidance and support of the National Museums of Kenya and Karatina University.

The exhibition may also be accessed with the EXPOSED PASS, purchasable for €25 via this link:

We would like to thank Fondazione Torino Musei and Palazzo Madama for their support.

EXPOSED Torino Foto Festival is the new International Festival of Photography taking place in the Piedmont capital from 2 May to 2 June 2024. Drawing on one of the key themes in the Italian photographic tradition, the first edition of the Festival – under the artistic direction of Menno Liauw and Salvatore Vitale – is dedicated to the theme New Landscapes – Nuovi Paesaggi, and proposes a reflection on the current evolution of the photographic medium and the main challenges and innovations in the world of the image, through a programme of temporary exhibitions, meetings, talks and events in the venues of Turin’s main cultural institutions. Promoted by the City of Turin, the Piedmont Regional Council, the Turin Chamber of Commerce, Intesa Sanpaolo, Fondazione Compagnia di San Paolo and Fondazione per l’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea CRT on behalf of Fondazione CRT and organised by Fondazione per la Cultura Torino, EXPOSED is the result of the desire to once again emphasise the city’s cultural and artistic vocation, which in initiatives revolving around creativity and innovation sees some of the territory’s driving forces powering development and growth, not only in terms of tourism.

The programme of the first edition features more than twenty temporary exhibitions, an artistic commission, two days of talks, an educational platform, an independent publishing salon, meetings, screenings, portfolio readings and other events, all made possible thanks to the involvement in the planning and production of Turin’s leading institutions, independent realities and the various players on the urban and international art scene.

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Title: State of Emergency. Harakati za Mau Mau kwa Haki, Usawa na Ardhi Yetu

Opening: April 10, 2024

Ending: June 02, 2024

Organization: EXPOSED Torino Foto Festival

Curator: Salvatore Vitale

Place: Torino, Palazzo Madama - Museo Civico d'Arte Antica

Address: Piazza Castello - Torino

More info on this website: