Unhistories, Double Bind, FOMU - Fotomuseum Antwerp, 2022

UNHISTORIES (2015-ongoing)

Unhistories is an ongoing documentary project in collaboration with Mau Mau war veterans, Kenyans who survived colonial atrocities, historians, artists, activists, writers, archivists, universities and museums. Together, we aim to (re)visualize the fight for independence from British colonial rule in the 1950s. With most of the colonial archives deliberately destroyed, hidden or manipulated, we attempt to shine a light on this history’s blind spots by creating new “imagined records” that fill in the missing gaps of historical archives. A collaborative attempt at rebuilding and reimagining possible futures of reparation and reconciliation.

How can one visualize the past by photographing the present with a future audience in mind? The “in-person” reenactment, or demonstration, allows us to speak about the past in the present tense, and about the present in the future tense. In Unhistories, survivors demonstrate their past experiences in which they claim their roles as heroic victims instead of terrorists to create communal images as a response to the trauma of colonial violence. Zigzagging through history’s multi-directional ghost notes, Unhistories interweaves fragmentary colonial archives, architectural and symbolic remnants from the past, mass grave sites, and the testimony of people who experienced and survived the war themselves. A visual historiography in which ambiguity, uncertainty and speculation are inherent to the retelling and reclaiming of unresolved historical narratives based on memory, photography and physical traces.

Unhistories on the Pan-African platform The Elephant:
The Elephant / Unhistories, Part I – Kenya’s Mau Mau: A Walk Through the Archives
The Elephant / Unhistories, Part II – Kenya’s Mau Mau: Detention Camps and Torture
The Elephant / Unhistories, Part III – Kenya’s Mau Mau: Resistance, Mass Graves and Compensation

Unhistories is produced with the support of the National Museums of Kenya, the Kenya National Archives, the Nyeri Museum, Karatina University, the National Mau Mau War Veterans Association of Kenya, the Kenya Human Rights Comission, The National Archives (UK), the Bristol Archives and Museums, the Archive of Modern Conflict and the Flemish government. This ongoing project started during Pinckers’ time as a doctoral researcher in arts at KASK & Conservatorium, the HOGENT and Howest school of arts, financed by the HOGENT Arts Research Fund.

Research and production assistance by Victoria Gonzalez-Figueras. Research support by David Anderson and the Museum of British Colonialism. Translations and transcriptions by Maureen Ng’ayu and Terry Wairimu. Audiovisual assistance by Wiet Lengeler and Pedro Gossler. All photographs from 2015 were created during the collaboration The Struggle for Freedom in: "________” with Michiel Burger.

Reference texts & reviews:
Reimagining Time, Reconstructing Space: Visual Approaches to Mau Mau History In Kenya, Chao Maina & Max Pinckers, Trigger, 2020
The Weight of Photographs. About all the photo series of Max Pinckers, Hans Theys, Max Pinckers, 2021
Schuldgevoelens leiden tot niks. Gesprek met David Linx over de fotoreeks Unhistories van Max Pinckers, Hans Theys, HART, 2021
Een speculatief vat vol verhalen – Een gesprek met Max Pinckers, Jasper Delva, Metropolis M, 2022

UnhistoriesYouTube Channel