Stories from our Cities

Sunday 25th

Stories from our cities

The end of our first week in Kenya was marked with a street photography exhibition called Stories from our Cities in which photographers from K-Youth Media (an NGO that trains young people to be community reporters) and the University of Brighton exhibited their work on the walls of the Babadogo Road in Ruaraka. The exhibition lasted for a about 4 hours……mainly because our driver was late coming to pick us up. This was probably too long because some of the students, girls especially but not only, were attracting attention that made them feel a little uncomfortable. I think they were pleased when the bus finally arrived.

That said the exhibition overall was successful. There were some from the community who questioned why we were there and this was a fair point but when either I or Fredrick from K-Youth Media discussed the purpose of the collaboration between youth most were happy. One or two, were wary and one or two other were clearly spaced out on Miraa or some other form of herb! There was never any danger to anyone and this was the first time students from CM4K have come face to face with the stark realities of poverty in the developing world. It was a shock to some of them and several started to discuss their feelings with me. I am glad they started to think critically and question why? It is so easy to fall into the viewpoint that Kenya is just a place of smiling happy faces and simple generosity and feel comfortable with that view. Just to put anyone’s mind at rest, the exhibition was not held in any of the areas we are advised not to go but there was enough poverty and deprivation to give students who want to interpret the harsh realities of the world realistically to do so!

The students from CM4K and K-Youth Media were interviewing each other and getting the photographers to comment on their picture – thoughts, composition, intended message, etc. Lots of content was captured and I witnessed collaborative discussions taking place all over the place. I was most pleased with this because it signified a successful collaboration.

January 26th

The next day was meant to be a critical reflection on the exhibition between both sets of young practitioners in the K-Youth Media offices. Unfortunately, our driver was arrested…….again…..for not having a music liscence! In the middle of rush hour…..I mean I ask you…..really? The Kenyan Police certainly take copyright laws & public performance in a 14 seater mini-bus very seriously! Or were they just after pocketing more cash from this poor man?

The upshot of this was that when he finally arrived it was too late for the reflective discussions. This was a big shame but I am going to try and organise a video-conference when we return because I think everyone will benefit from it. That meant there was some time for a little relaxation and a football game started downstairs for a while. Eventually Alex & I called everyone together to pack and plan for our departure from Nairobi and our collaborations with Rongo University in Migori County. We leave today in an hour or so and internet connectivity will be hot and miss so dear readers you have been warned 😉

Stories of our cities

On Sunday we went to a place called Ruaraka in the outskirts of Nairobi. I do not think any of us was prepared for it. Ruaraka is a very poor area of dense slums. We held our photography street exhibition Stories of Our Cities there. At first people mainly children started gathering around us looking at the photographs with curiosity. However, at some point we were surrounded by adults asking us for money and telling us how hungry they are. They were wondering how exactly we were helping them with that exhibition. Later on we discussed that maybe that particular area was not the best place to hold an exhibition of the sort. By the end of it we felt very uncomfortable being there. We got to meet Fred, Eric and Victor who invited us to take part of the exhibition. They were very kind and helpful and did some amazing work for organising the whole thing. During the day I became a temporal member of the audio group and helped the guys to record a few interviews. I also made two new friends. Two little incredibly cute girls insisted on holding my hands the whole time.

Unfortunately, we did not get to attend the second part of the exhibition which consisted of us reflecting on our experience. We will probably do it at some point in the future through a Skype conversation.

Journey and Day 1.

We booked the taxi to take us from my flat to Brighton coach station at 1am on Monday 19th January. All of us very excited to get going and start something amazing. I kind of felt sorry for the taxi driver as he had to deal with the constant outbursts of excitement. Once we arrived we met the others and jumped on the coach to London Heathrow Terminal 2. This is where we met the rest of our team and boarded the plane to Zurich, Switzerland. Although, I instantly fell in love with Switzerland, it was only a brief stop as 50 minutes later, we boarded the plane to Nairobi, Kenya. The journey felt like it took forever, but that didn’t kill any of our excitement. As soon as we got off of the plane, it felt like you had just been hit by a wave of pure heat. The difference in temperature between Switzerland and Kenya was enormous but I absolutely loved it. Wearing flip flops in the middle of January is not a usual thing for me. We were then picked up by Rufus, and taken to our accommodation. This was an apartment with four rooms (including the living room), so with 14 of us, we were a little cramped. Four of us boys, Alex, Charlie, Mike and myself claimed one room and coined the name “Casa Del Lad.” Once we were all settled, we headed down to the bar next door, “Taidys”, where we were welcomed with open arms. Philip, the assistant manager, gave us a tour and gave us helpful advice about staying in Kenya. We then ordered a few Heinekens, nicknamed “Heineys” and toasted the start of our two week adventure in Africa.

 

The second day was a rest day, to recover from all the travelling. We spend the day getting to know the area. A brief walk around next door’s mall, T-Mall, and a visit to Taidy’s, it was then time to meet with Willice to finalise the details of the next day’s visit to Kenyatta University. Willice then ran through who his preliminary running order for the following day.

 

He explained that the day would begin with speeches from various members of staff at Kenyatta University as well as Peter and Charlie from our group and that is what happened. We woke at 06.30am and travelled to Kenyatta University. Once the speeches were delivered, we took a short break to network with the Kenyan students and have a cup of coffee.

 

After the break, we were introduced to our group. Mike, Amy and myself sat them down and asked them what they would want to hear from a community radio or podcast. It was at this moment I assessed how much the Kenyan students knew about community radio and how passionate they were about certain issues in Nairobi. Issues such as the gap between the rich and the poor, environmental issues and maintaining Kenyan identity as well as celebrating cultural diversity.

 

We then moved on to a more practical aspect of community radio and introduced the ZOOM microphones. The students were instantly fascinated by them and wanted to get going so we split into three groups and started introducing the basic functions. I then set them the task of getting the perfect level in a recording, of which, they did. We asked the students to then recorded the letters “A, B, C, D, E” in a random order. Once I felt they were capable of recording a good quality sound clip, we took the files and loaded them on to the music software, Audacity. We then showed the students how to cut, paste, and edit the sound to get the best possible results. The task we set them asked the students to re-order the letters so it spelled the first five letters of the alphabet. After a few attempts, they succeeded and noted that they were excited to use the software again.

 

Finally, we sat around in a circle again and noted all the topics and how we could relate them to the proposed community media centre in Ngong. We also asked the students to download Audacity and to write some interview questions in preparation for the next day.

 

pre kenya

Chapatti Day

Today we visited the Focus Initiative at Ruiru. The Focus Initiative is a daytime orphanage/youth centre where children can stay over the day, study and interact with other children. The moment we arrived, one of the girls came straight to me and asked me to be her friend. Her name was Evelyn and we are now friends forever. We made Chapatti ( I am basically a chapatti chef now ), played games with the kids and had a look around. The children were absolutely fascinated with our cameras and mobile phones, they were running around taking selfies and filming each other. Most of us ( not only the girls ) ended up with plaits in their hairs. We also played Kenyan ice breaker games in the garden, we were all in a circle clapping our hands … for some reason ( I really did not get that ) but everyone was laughing so it was quite entertaining. Later in the afternoon around 3pm we had lunch…Kenyan lunch time, we ate all the chapatti we cooked earlier in the day and they were incredible! After lunch we had a meeting with media students from Zetech University discussing the similarities and differences between our courses.

As a whole we spent the day playing with the kids, sunbathing and meeting some really nice students. It was a bit sad to meet all those children and see the conditions they were living in but the smiles on their faces and the curiosity they were full of made me as happy as they were.

Day 8, 26th

Today, we were meant to revisit our partners in Ruaraka, however as we have learnt on this trip, Kenyan traffic does not work in anyone’s favor. Our driver, Victor, got stuck for 2hours and unfortunately we had to cancel our day. Though I have learnt that we will Skype to review and discus own experiences once back in the UK.

Tomorrow we will head to Rongo, which is over an 7 hour drive, we are all chilling, doing work and packing for the trip tomorrow.

Day 7, 25th

Today we headed to Ruaraka for stories of our cities project and collaboration with a group of local film makers/photographers. The project is an ongoing project from 2nd year at university. We showed our photos to the local community, a township in Ruaraka, it was very enjoyable to see the photos of their community and our side by side, seeing the similarities and differences.

Today was located in a township area. It was hard to see such basic living. However the people had so much lust for their community, even though one can not hide that fact their was poverty, the people made it easier to enjoy the day! Their stories from their photos reinforced this notion of passion that is so evident in Kenyan culture. I envy this for not just myself but my community in Brighton.

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Day 6, 24th

Today we headed to Ruriru to Focus Youth Initiative, a day orphanage for a chapatti day. We collaborated with Zetech University to photo and film the community. We got to learn how to make/cook a chapatti, which was so fun!

I have never been so happy, the children made the day so special; it was so hard not to get upset. Today was a day I will never forget!

As I have noted before; the people give of so much happiness, however simple some of their life’s are. The modest fact that the children share everything they have is an example of how this community cares and loves for one another!

The people are content and I think this is what we should all strive for!

I will return to Focus one day, this is a promise, the staff, children and local community are special and I will always hold a place for them in my heart!

 

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Day 5, 23rd

Today we headed back to university, we meet our groups and started looking through over 3000 photos, we then selected 300, then down to 35. We then created a Photoshop workshop; we had to laptops out and ran through the basics. We then had lunch and started looking at how we would present the photos. We decided to put the photos on a PowerPoint with a black background. Our Kenyan students selected some local tribal music to accompany the presentation. We then watched the other groups presentations, ours and then listened to goodbye speeches. It was so sad to say goodbye to the friends we made! This trip is so amazing!

Thoughts on Kenya; I have never come across such loving, kind and passionate people! The energy that the students give off really drives me to become more avid to my work and day-to-day life! I love this country, its people and I am sure I will return to work with these people again.

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Day 4, 22nd

Today we went back to Kenyatta University and met our groups. We went to conduct our test shoots, my group went to an outside dance room, we watched an amazing dance routine, and it allowed the group a chance to photograph motion and then stills through portraits. We then went back to look through each others photos, we complemented and then recommended ways to make the photos better, this was useful before we headed out on shoot. We all got a coach together and headed to Ngong, on the coach all students mixed and learnt more about each others life’s, in and out of university, the journey took around 1 ½ hours. Firstly we arrived at a local police station, we meet the local county commissioner and he gave a speech to welcome us to Ngong. We then headed to visit Professor Walla, Kenya’s greatest children’s author; an expert in Swahili based books. I felt this part of the day went on to long and took away from the time we had to shoot. We quickly proceed to Ngong township school, a school of over 2000 students and only 37 teachers. Half the group went to shoot at an orphanage up the road. Myself and the rest of the group stayed to listen to the head teacher. We spoke about the troubles the school faced and the ways a community center can help the local area. My group then went and photographed a teacher in her classroom, she showed us around the school, it was very sad to she such basic rooms. What shone out was the teachers passion to help better their school and community. We regrouped and headed to Ngong hills for photos. The whole area is stunning; it has been the best day so far!

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Day 3, 21st

We woke up and started the day with a home cooked breakfast, we the headed to Kenyatta University to meet our cohorts who would be taking part in the workshops. When we arrived we sat in the workshop room and listened to introduction speeches, we then formed our groups. I was running the photography group along with 3 other Brighton students. We started by getting to know each other, talking about each other’s communities, university lifestyles and national culture. In order to stick to our serviced based learning approach we asked everyone to express their knowledge on photography. Some students were advanced and others novices. One Kenyan student explained the basics of photography. Then we processed to explain in more depth the workshop and photography theory. We followed our guide we made back in Brighton, each student had a partner, we used the cameras and tripods to physically show how a camera is used. After lunch we went and took test shoots around the university. We then came up with the theme ‘faces of the community’ and decided to use portraiture. We took photos around the university’s shopping center, we then went back to the room, reviewed the photos, reflected on the days events and planned a test shoot for the next day.

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