The Mau Mau Collective

The Mau Mau Collective, named after the Mau Mau group who fought for Kenya’s independence, is an autonomous, Kenyan organisation which seeks to unite and ignite the collective potential of African artists to create change.

Film For Social Change

In July 2017, Mau Mau founder, Robert Munuku was awarded an ASEF Visual Arts runner up prize. He was offered the opportunity to receive personal mentoring, to attend residential leadership training, or to receive project support. Robert chose the latter and requested our support to implement a project that uses film as an agent of social change. 

The Mau Mau Collective will work with 10 young artists in Nairobi to create a socially conscious short film, under the guidance of an experienced film mentor.  The aim of the project is to firmly establish the arts as an agent of social change by using film as a vehicle to explore areas of social concern.

The Mau Mau Collective are currently exploring 3 areas: Gender inclusivity, Democracy and Climate justice.  The short film will explore one of these themes, and the final theme will be selected by a vote.

The Project will have two phases

  1. Film Making Workshops

  2. Independent Filming

The workshop will be run by an experienced member of the Mau Mau Collective, in central Nairobi.

Participants will come together to learn how to film, how to write form scripts, how to do basic film editing and how to incorporate music into film. The Mau Mau Collective has its own film-making kit, but will partner with a local organisation to provide supplementary equipment for the workshop. 

Although the workshops themselves last only one day, participants, armed with what they have learned during the workshops, will go out and generate content for the film around a set theme, through independent filming. Once completed, there will be a formal screening in Nairobi’s Central Business District. The film will be under 14 minutes.

The film will also be included in Mau Mau Light, an app that the organization are currently producing to showcase and sell artist’s work. The content of Mau Mau Light will be curated into an online gallery and will include e-books, painting and film. The platform will enable artists to upload their work for sale, free of charge. When work is sold, Mau Mau will charge a small fee. The collective are currently in discussion with Akura Chicks, a conglomerate of female program developers.

Why this project is important 

The project will provide a platform for skills learning. All participants will be young, local community members. The project will encourage them to think critically about a specific area of social concern, to work in a team, and to express their opinions through the medium of film.
 
The film will also provide further scope for partnership within the Mau Mau Collective itself. The organization are committed to sharing the film with other organisations and creative hubs doing similar work. These include The British Council Nairobi, Hivos, and the Goethe Instiut, as well as local media partners.  

Interview with Robert Munuku
Founder:The Mau Mau Collective and
Runner Up: 2017 ASEF Visual Arts Award



What drew you to becoming an artist?

'What drew me to become an artist' nice pun!  I was born an artist; I began doing pencil drawings at the age of 5 which I was later told, demonstrated  the proficiency level of children in their teens.  My parents, Assumpta Mũnũku and Frank Mũnũku encouraged me and helped me develop my skills and I have been drawing and painting ever since.  

I have always been driven art’s aesthetic appeal, but as I matured I realized that for me, art was beyond creating beauty or self-expression. It was a potent tool for social change. 

I read about great artists, especially Leonardo Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, Salvador Dali. I wanted to learn about the techniques they used. 

As a teenager I added photography to my repertoire, progressing to lDSLR cameras and cinematography in my twenties, which eventually led me to filmmaking. Today I view myself as a multi media artist and enjoy using a combination of fine art, creative writing & film. 

From your point of view and experience, what role does art play in society?

Art impacts on all aspects of life.  It appeals not only to the senses but the spirit.  Art is an aperture for expression for the artist and doubly so for the recipient of the art regardless of its form.  The artist speaks for himself/herself simultaneously speaking for the world which consumes the same art.  

What was your most memorable and transformational experience of working with communities through art?

My most memorable experience was in 2016 when the Mau Mau project worked on a graffiti mural in Jericho, a residential area in Nairobi. When we started working in the community, young people perceived violence and crime as  'cool' and 'admirable'. We were able to challenge and change that through the use of graffiti and to replace the gang recruitment message 'VIETNAM' and replace it with the word VICTORY.   

What do you believe needs to be done more or differently to achieve an even bigger positive impact in regard to the use of the arts for social change?

I feel the first step for achieving bigger impact, especially here in Kenya and most African countries, is changing thinking about artists themselves and elevating their position in society. Artists need the resources to operate in the space freely.  They need opportunities for learning so they can grown their skills and earn a living from their craft (creative economy).  Empowering Artists through a creative economy provides both short and long term benefits, not least because artists are social commentators and their voices should be heard and they should be empowered to contribute to how their communities are managed.

What are the biggest challenges that you face as an artist?

I'm an independent artist.  This is a double edged sword. I have independence to direct and create my own art, and highlight issues that I, my friends and other Kenyans experience on a daily basis. However, this often doesn't sit well with the forces that are criticized in my work. I have lost friends, opportunities and more because I will not compromise my message or values. Challenging as this has been, I wouldn’t change it.

What gets you out of bed in the morning?

The alarm clock!  Just kidding, on a serious note, I was brought into this world for a purpose. And until that purpose is fulfilled I will always get up in the morning and do my very best!  I believe I am a steward of a gift and from the time I was born, it has been my responsibility and joy to share this gift with the world.

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With thanks to Victor Ehikhamenor for allowing us to use images of his art work.