Freedom Square is where the street kids of Isiolo pass most of their time. It's a small family of Acacia trees, rooted directly in the center of town. Under its fractal shade, the kids cook, sleep, fight, tease their dog and do glue. Anneliese had the brilliant idea to bring some art supplies into the den, to encourage a bit of expression other than the usual antics they perform when we have the camera around. I predicted a riot as soon as the paper and colored pencils were to be revealed, ending in similar fashion to the many attempts we've made to distribute food. It's a sad and desperate thing to watch. Each time we swear we'll never do it again. And of course, we do. This time however, there was a moment of paralysis as Anneliese pulled out the sketch pad, pencils and crayons, handing them over to one of the older, bigger boys. They didn't immediately know what to make of the offering. Edible? Valuable? Which color do I want? The pencils- pink, blue, whatever- were snatched without preference. Most haven't been to school and are even less likely to have ever been given a chance to do some coloring on a big sketch pad. After quick skirmish, about 20 boys were prone on their mats, silently coloring. 10 minutes later, kids started coming over to proudly present and describe their drawings. Most were simple homes. Lots of lions, snakes and cars. A couple were pornographic.
Anneliese got a nice, Renaissance-style portrait (see above). After they were satisfied with their drawings, the kids voluntarily handed them to us for safe keeping- each with a smile, most saying thank you quietly, before affixing the glue bottles back to their lips as they spiraled away.
Then a strange thing happened. As our cameras came out, they went back to their usual business of rolling around laughing, passing out, cooking, trading collected copper scraps for glue, etc. but for once, they paid us almost no attention. Some sort of peace and acceptance settled in beneath the tree. Our acknowledgment of their creativity, of their potential, of their existence as something other than a disturbance seemed to release some pressure. And it lasted until sunset.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Kariobangi is a slum outside of Nairobi. Its dense, Byzantine network of tunnels and dwellings might be the most feared place in Kenya. Through a process of introductions that began last year, we came to know the right people that would allow us to bring our cameras in. After getting the nod from the street kid crew, the price of some amazing footage was reduced significantly. The regular rate of robbery or worse was reduced to a mere accidental double poop-shoe. "Footage"...Village Beat-style.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
We finally ventured to the home, or that which is left and can somehow resemble a 'home' for one of our greatest friends and central figures, Sinbad. He sleeps tucked away from the night winds outside the local supermarket, directly in the center of Isiolo, a dusty 6-street "town" where we've spent most of our time digging into Kenya and her street children. Sinbad is possibly the town's biggest glue-user. Each day- and night- the 17-year old is higher than jet trails, yet somehow he's also the most respectful, well-mannered, intelligent, and handsome little dude I know. After months following his story, it's become obvious and understandable to us why he spends his time in town, away from this 'home', family, school or any support system we can recognize. His home is a dung shelter...actually quite beautiful... for his mother (just 11 years older) who is passing with Aids, her second child (also sick with HIV), his step-father and grandmother who is going blind and can barely walk anymore. Mom's second husband (classic Kenyan step-father story) is the only bread-winner, and doesn't actually win...so most nights comes home desperate and drunk and beats and neglects the family and Sinbad cannot resist defense, thus its better for everyone he remain out of the 'house'.
Pictured here is Mom and lil sis (actually named Mom). I love them.
A goddess of the Amazon, a tiny slum along a Mombasa Bay inlet, cleverly named after the lush foliage eating into the mud and metal-walled shacks as well as the unpredictable wildness that ravages its dwellers. In day, Amazon is (generally) peaceful and lazy. The tide washes up and creates a personal swimming pool and bath (if one is eager enough to backstroke through floating plastic bags and feces floating atop what looks like an ocean of cloudy veggie juice). The sun peaks through the dense jungle and plumeria wafts down from the hilltop, gracing each little home with some much-needed aromatherapy. At night, Amazon turns into a drunken Disneyland. Dizzying, volatile, and as safe for whiteys (and it's inhabitants) as sharing needles found in the public dump. Pictured here is one of the Amazon's ladies, at peace and gorgeous, and in her lap is the newest addition, little Darling.