This week I had my first actual shoot for the enemies project in the Kibera slums of Nairobi. There are a lot of things I didn’t say here in the video. I would have liked to take so many more photographs there in the slums, but I have decided that I won’t take peoples’ photographs unless they agree to it. Walking through the slums, you see a wide variety of reactions – from innocent laughing curiosity in the young children to suspicion or resentment to stares that are as blank as some of the mud and tin walls of the narrow passageways. It is an incredible place, and the people I met were wonderful beyond words.
The woman who I photographed was Loice. She was quiet and beautiful. When I interviewed her she talked at length about forgiveness and how grateful she was for her Luo neighbors. In the post-election violence of 2007 the Luo and Kikuyu people were killing each other in great numbers. It is so beautiful to me that her former Luo neighbors worked hard to help her move back into Kibera. You might wonder why someone would want to move back into the biggest slum in the world, but it is still a community and the bonds of friendship are meaningful to people who live here, scraping by to live one less than a dollar a day.
The New Zealand woman who came with me is Jeannette. It was her first full day in Kenya – what a first day. I think that it was shocking for many of the people in the slums to see a disabled white woman. But the meeting between her and James was beautiful. Then the meeting of James and Loice, from opposite sides of the conflict, was beyond words. These experiences make this whole project worthwhile. As difficult as it has been to arrange, and as challenging as it will be to fund, I am glad that I have started on this.
Many thanks to the Kenya Alternatives to Violence Project, and especially to Thomas Kozzih and Cornelius Ambias for helping me find and arrange the shoots in Kibera.
Minor notes: I was not so happy with the photographs I got from this shoot. I was paying so much attention to the people interactions that I feel as though I didn’t give the photographs enough attention – so rare for me. But this is just the first shoot of a huge project and I consider these raw images just material for the final pieces which will be far from the raw photographs. Also, I video-ed James and Loice telling their stories as well, and that is not something I planned on doing. I’ll put some of these interviews up when I have time, though I’m sure the audio is not great since I didn’t bring an external mike. So much was happening in these shoots that I wish that I had a person dedicated to doing video of the experience itself. I wanted more documentation than I could possibly do on my own. Something to think about for the next trip.