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Stop The Killings

Betty Press | Kenya

Organization: Mathare Social Justice Centre

Mathare is one of the largest and poorest urban settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. It is a warren of mostly one room, tin houses with no interior water or sanitation. Residents of these neighborhoods hail from a long lineage of resilient people who have had to constantly defend their right to the city, despite continuous attempts at evictions, land grabbing and demolitions in their localities. Youth are most likely the ones to be killed by the police and suffer from enforced disappearances. These low income settlements are the communities most impacted by Nairobi’s informal policy of state-sanctioned violence, namely extrajudicial executions (EJE), in the name of seeking safer communities. Families of victims are reclaiming their rights to exist through civic participation, community organizing and active documentation of human rights violations.

Mama Victor (Benna Buluma) lost two sons, Bernard and Victor, to Kenyan police killings during the 2017 post-election violence. After realizing she was not the only one to experience such injustice from extrajudicial executions (EJE) by police, she started a support group, Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network. Together they share stories of oppression and foster much-needed conversations on the grassroots and global level. Their activism against EJE is considered a threat by police. Since 2015, nearly 500 people have been killed in Kenya by police or reported missing.

This documentary shows how community members in some of the poorest neighborhoods reclaim their right to exist through civic participation, community organizing and active documentation of human rights violations.

The project documents eighteen families and their stories of survival against a system in which the political elite use police to criminalize poverty through state-sanctioned violence - in the name of safer communities. The aim is to reduce police brutality and achieve redress and justice for bereaved families. The project team consists of Mama Victor, writer Wyban Kanyi, and photographer Betty Press.

Betty Press never expected to travel beyond the rural Nebraskan farm where she grew up. After graduating from university and working for a few years as a teacher she hitch-hiked around the world for two years with her husband.

Betty is well known for her photographs taken in Africa where she lived and worked in Kenya from 1987 to 1995 and in Sierra Leone in 2008-09 while her husband was on a Fulbright scholarship. Now living in Hattiesburg, Mississippi she continues to photograph in the USA, Central America and in Africa.She still considers Kenya her second home.

From 2010 to 2019 she documented life in Mississippi. Finding Mississippi records ‘real life’ in small communities throughout Mississippi with black-and-white film, using toy and vintage cameras. The resulting imperfections, soft focus and vignetting serve as metaphors for how landscape, race and religion have played a part in the complicated history of Mississippi.

Her photographs have been widely-exhibited, selected for many juried competitions and added to many private and public collections. In 2011 she published an award winning photobook,I Am Because We Are: African Wisdom in Image and Proverb which captured a stunning, life-affirming portrait of the African people and culture.

In August 2019 she returned to Kenya to work on personal projects dealing with urban culture and social injustice.

She is represented by Panos Pictures, London; International Visions, Washington, DC; Fischer Galleries, Jackson, Mississippi; and One Off Contemporary Art Gallery, Nairobi, Kenya.For more information visit https://www.bettypress.com

Mathare Social Justice Center, Nairobi, Kenya

Mothers of Victims and Survivors Network


+1 601 434 3380


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