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Kenya at 50: Stunning photos celebrate country's culture

By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN
December 12, 2013 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
A photography competition is celebrating Kenya's 50th year of independence from British rule.<!-- -->
</br>Kelvin Shani said of his image capturing a sunset at the Rift Valley: "It was photographed at the viewpoint on the way to Mai Mahiu. I see it as a very welcoming picture showcasing the raw beauty of Kenya with its vast landscapes." A photography competition is celebrating Kenya's 50th year of independence from British rule.
Kelvin Shani said of his image capturing a sunset at the Rift Valley: "It was photographed at the viewpoint on the way to Mai Mahiu. I see it as a very welcoming picture showcasing the raw beauty of Kenya with its vast landscapes."
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Sunset at the Rift Valley
Maasai Portrait
Boatmen
The tusks of Mombasa
90 decades in the 254
Mt. Longonot
Aerial view of Machakos Bus Station
Maasai Herdsman
Mwea Irrigation
Gorgeous
Construction Workers
Kenya's World Beaters
Kenya Flag
Lines in the Sky
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Kenya celebrates its 50th year of independence from British rule
  • A photography competition celebrated the country's heritage and history
  • Outstanding images show people or places with historical and cultural significance

(CNN) -- Turning 50 is a major milestone in a person's life -- and a country's history.

Kenya celebrates Thursday its Golden Jubilee year following 50 years of independence from British rule.

To commemorate the event, Nairobi-based photographer Mutua Matheka teamed up with Samsung last month to launch Picha Hamsini, a photo contest celebrating the East African country's heritage from past to present. They asked photography enthusiasts from across Kenya to submit images of people or places with historical and cultural significance and explain why these were relevant to them or the country.

"The goal of the contest was to see and show Kenya from the eyes of Kenyans," says Matheka. "(To) use images to celebrate our country and get people involved in that celebration. We have a lot we are not happy about as a country, but I believe we also have a lot to celebrate and I feel photography is usually a tool to further and foster that."

The goal of the contest was to see and show Kenya from the eyes of Kenyans.
Mutua Matheka, photographer

Read this: Africa's most exciting new photographers

The organizers received more than 2,000 images submitted via Facebook, Twitter and Istagram. In the end, the 25 best were selected and featured in a street exhibition in the center of the Kenyan capital, alongside some of Matheka's photos.

"The images we received were fantastic," says Matheka. "Some celebrated people, others celebrated our activities, others celebrated beautiful places," he adds. "The winners were mostly amateur photographers."

With celebrations underway across Kenya, many believe that this is also a time to look back and learn from the mistakes of the past.

Read this: Kenyan yoga strikes a pose

Matheka says the overriding message of the celebrations is that "we have moved quite a distance in democracy, value of life, ability to make a living in this country from 50 years back to now."

He adds: "A lot has changed for the better and a lot has changed for the worse too. I celebrate the progress and keep track of it so that for the next 50 years we try to avert from the former mistakes and progress as a nation."

Click through our gallery above to check out some of the competition's best photographs.

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