International Alert has marked the launch of the first in a new series of peace assessments with a range of engaging events and activities about Kenya in Hoxton Gallery - a converted railway arch in east London.
The assessment, called ‘Peace Audit: Kenya’, explores the opportunities and challenges of building sustainable peace in the country and is informed by interviews with local community members. Alert illustrated some of its key findings by running a photography exhibition from 10–15 February called 'Peace blooms: Cattle, conflict and the roses of Lake Naivasha', designed to get the general public talking about the issues and possible solutions.
The exhibition brought to life the stories and concerns of rose farmers and traditional Maasai pastoralists in Lake Naivasha – a vital freshwater source in the dry Rift Valley region that provides livelihoods for two million Kenyans. Visitors had the chance to find out how pressures on the lake are creating water and land shortages, which in turn are leading to tensions and violence among the different groups who depend on them.
The exhibition also looked at prospects for peace in Kibera, a large informal settlement that became a hotspot for post-election violence in 2007/8, and Turkana, where recent oil explorations are presenting both opportunities and challenges for the local community. It highlighted the need for natural resources to be managed in a fair and sustainable way in order for peace and stability to prosper in Kenya.
Alert ran a pop-up flower 'shop' throughout the week, which attracted a number of visitors around Valentine's Day. Five-hundred fairtrade Kenyan roses of all hues were donated for the stall and, with Kenya supplying 70% of all roses on the UK market, people were encouraged to think more about their origins and the stories behind them.
The exhibition also featured a special Peace Talks on ‘Kenya: Water, power, people and peace’, which you can watch here. Journalist Martin Plaut chaired a fascinating discussion on these interconnections, with Sir Edward Clay, Moses Onyango and Alert’s Peace Audit author Janani Vivekananda on the panel.
The talk was followed by a Kenyan feast laid on by Nairobi-born chef Emily Amuke – a former Masterchef quarter-finalist.
A top line-up of street artists also offered their support to the exhibition by spreading the ‘peace blooms’ message throughout the week. JustJarvis, Artista, Jay Pacer and thread artist Perspicere took over the iconic Shoreditch Art Wall with a colourful Valentine's-themed floral display. Chewing gum artist Ben Wilson also painted two intricate pieces outside Hoxton Gallery, which are inspired by photos in the exhibition.
View more pictures from the week's events:
You can also view the exhibition online here.
Join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #PeaceBlooms.