Nelson Mandela once said that there is no passion to be found playing small in settling for a life that is less than the one you’re capable of living. Boniface Mwangi is a visible, passionate flame in the fight for justice in this country.
The social-political activist has in his own way made his mark in being vocal against the political ills in Kenya and how they affect the kawaida mwananchi. His documentary ‘Softie’, a film documenting his journey of activism has been nominated in the Best Documentary Feature category in the 2021 Oscars having been shortlisted among over 40 other documentaries.
Boniface is known for his images of the post-election violence that hit Kenya in 2007–2008. He quit journalism after witnessing and documenting post-election violence in Kenya in 2007 as a photojournalist, having experienced posttraumatic stress and depression as a result of the same. His frustrations were worsened by his coverage of the same politicians that had incited the violence going unpunished.
Boniface sat down with KenyanVibe.com to share his thoughts on his journey and his convictions.
What inspired the making of this docufilm ‘Softie’?
We were working on an activism manual a couple of years ago. Sam Soko, the director of the film, thought there could be a bigger story than just the activism angle. He wanted to develop a 360 degree perspective of what goes into the life I have given myself to. It is a story of love and much sacrifice; the struggle that goes into, for example, getting things to Parliament, the toll it has taken on my family and so on. That is where the idea was born.
If you were to describe your journey in one word, what would that one word be?
Unbelievable. When I look at where I am coming from, the humble background… Who would have known I would have gotten this far?
How do you deal with the emotion of fear?
I look at myself as just one piece of a bigger puzzle and don’t look at my struggle as a one man fighting a system but rather, one man making his contribution in bringing the required change. Fear is necessary because it helps us draw certain lines so that we are not overly reckless when making decisions.
How do you fight discouragement?
I consider it a part of life. There are times after a protest I have decided that that would be the last one I would organize or actualize but after a while, that fire, that desire to see change makes me get up and keep fighting. Understanding the cause I am fighting for makes me overcome my moments of discouragement.
Many people feel disturbed about the level of corruption in this country, but not many take to the streets to protest. What triggered you into activism?
Post-election violence. As a photojournalist, I witnessed firsthand what tribalism can do – what it had done. I wondered why the instigators of that violence went scot-free, something had to be done.
What is your greatest aspiration in all this?
My kids. My grandfather was a freedom fighter. I am a beneficiary of a lineage that fought for something bigger than themselves. I want my children to live in a better country than I did.
How do you determine who remains in your close circle?
The close friends I have now are folk I have known from more than a decade. We don’t read from the same script as far as every matter of life is concerned; our divergent views on politics and life in general, makes no difference to our friendship.
Do you have mentors? Who are they?
I have both living and deceased mentors. They include Malcom X, Willie Mutunga, Wangari Mathari, just to mention.
What kind of legacy would you want to leave behind?
That I spoke the language of courage fluently