This weekend I went into the Mathare slums of Nairobi to photograph people involved with the 2008 post-election violence. I met and photographed two families. Ben was directly involved in the violence, and he talked at length about what he considered to be the problems that led to the violence – specifically the lack of jobs for young people and the fanning of ethnic divisions by politicians who were seeking to make political gains.
After the riots Ben and his wife, Janet, adopted eight children who had been orphaned in the riots. The eleven of them (including their own daughter) live in two small rooms that are maybe eight to nine feet square. This part of Mathare is really different that Kibera. The Kenyan government teamed up with the German government to build concrete structures here that people live and work in. They are still tiny, but it is totally different than the haphazard mud and tin structures of Kibera.
Ben used to own a butchers shop, but his shop was burned down during the riots. He still owes money to the bank for the shop which no longer exists, so he hasn’t been able to start a new one. He now runs a small co-op that makes jewelry from bones for tourists. Janet sells frozen sweets from a small freezer that takes up the corner of one of their rooms. After the riots, Ben became involved with the Kenya Alternatives to Violence Project which he feels has helped him get past his anger about what happened in 2008.
Tomorrow I’m going back to Mathare so that I can photograph Ben and Janet with all of their children. I’ll also be working with two other people from opposite sides of the conflict who were also directly involved with the violence.