Flo Carson

Flo Carson - Social Anthropologist, studying International Development at Sciences Po, Paris. I am slightly obsessed by gender, politics, media, human rights and global health. I've worked in Asia, Africa and Europe and keen to explore more of the world we live in. Take a look at my Twitter & Tumblr for my most recent posts. tly

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Tomorrow Is A New Day

Halloween and Anna's birthday was due to be an early start. We got up for a meeting I had arranged with an organisation called Kibera Film School or Hot Sun Productions; a group which was set up in order to provide people from Kibera - the largest slum in Africa with a population estimated at 1 million - the chance to develop skills and an understanding of the media industry.

Ironically, the taxi driver that we had couldn't find the venue and thought that we had been saying 'Deaf School' the whole time. So he proceeded to drop Anna and I off at the Deaf School. It wasn't the best place to ask for directions. So we took it upon ourselves to look elsewhere for advice. Eventually, someone knew what the hell we were talking about and walked us to Kibera Film School which was at the top edge of the slum. The dry red roads were reasonably wide at this point, with barbers and sweet shops hidden behind tin or mud walls and various music resounding from invisible stereos. Kibera Film School is found locked behind a metal gate, a small piece of land which holds the school, the foundation and production centre. We were greeted by a friendly face, who every time I said something replied with 'Beautiful!'; he proceeded to give us a tour of the office (loose choice of the word office here) and introduce us to other members of staff who were all equally friendly and forthcoming with their handshakes. We met a guy called Michael, who was a graduate of the film school, and he was head of Kibera TV - www.kiberatv.blogspot.com - which aims to develop a journalistic citizenry and community within Kibera to promote stories of hope and soundbites which draw Kibera people into global conversations. One of the videos they showed us which genuinely touched me was of a disabled reggae artist of the area, who's mantra was 'Disability is not Inability'; he insisted that all of us are in fact disabled in one way or another, none of us are perfect or able to do everything.
 It was really surreal and quite presumptive of me, but when we walked into a small cement room with no light and windows and were faced with two shining and enormous Macs, I couldn't help but laugh. Here in Africa's largest slum, was an editing studio. 

We were finally introduced to 'Roy', a big dog of the NGO, who my previous email correspondence had been somewhat minimalist, the majority of his answers to my lengthy emails had simply been 'Yes' or '9 am' etc. His presence beyond my computer screen, matched this almost exactly. Long pauses between sentences, instances which felt like hours where he was looking into the distance or he would simply get up and take a phone call as we tried to convince him of the ways in which we could be of use to Hot Sun Productions. Ultimately, I think we have managed to agree that we will be helping the organisation work on fundraising and promoting their slum screenings. As part of this, I'm going to make a short film which reveals the work that they do, the team and a sample of some of the short films they make in order to help them raise some money as they work on creating their larger, East African Film School. I arranged a start date a couple of weeks from now, so that I can spend some time exploring the coast selfishly and without any projects tying me down to the capital.

As we left Roy, Anna and I were impressed and excited about what we could do to help the organisation and sat in the front room of the office to decide our next steps. Another friendly, tall man in a black shirt and somewhat bucked teeth proceeded to shake our hands 'I'm Ronald. I am a cameraman. If you need anything at all, please come and find me'. Three seconds later we did and he took us on an impromptu tour of the slum as we wanted to seek out an artist called Solo7 (V odd name. No idea why he thought this was a name to choose. I'm sure there must be a reason?) who Ronald happened to be friends with and Anna had once met. Notorious in Kibera for his artistic activism and his involvement with education and teaching, Solo 7 also was famous for indulging in bangi that bit too much. Ronald then led us through Kibera, onto main roads where huge meat carcasses swung in the window, arrays of funky printed shirts blew in the wind, and corn was being char-grilled in makeshift barbecues. Greeting every other person on the street with their own individual handshake or high five he took a sharp turn off the main road and down the hill onto narrow paths of homes made of mud and wood. 'Watch out!' he exclaimed, gently patting the sharp metal that stuck out at us from all angles as we walked in sloppy puddles of litter and flies. He then invited us into his home that he shared with a friend. The room was reasonably large, made of a mixture of mud, cement and metal, filled with the kind of sofas you see in junk yards. The walls were adorned with cut outs from newspapers and magazines, and the counters had a few empty bottles of vodka on them, but also in one corner of the room was a hand written poster that clearly laid out the 'Ways to Resist Temptation'. Anna, having also seen this asked twice what the temptation was he was trying to resist. Ronald failed to even acknowledge the question both times, so we took it upon ourselves to not ask again and assume that that was for the best. We sat in the dark room and he showed  us some of the films that he had worked on. Then his handsome pals walked past the open door and joined us. They were so relaxed and didn't seem to care that two random Mzungus (Europeans) were sitting in their room, in their slum. Personally, I was sitting there thinking 'DAY TWO OF NAIROBI AND I AM CASUALLY HANGING OUT IN THE LARGEST SLUM IN AFRICA WITH A LOAD OF FILM MAKERS. LIFE IS GREAT.' 

We then continued our peculiar mission of trying to find the elusive Solo7. Ronald led us out of the narrower roads and into a visually more affluent area. Here there was light, painted shop fronts and vaguely maintained roads. On and off we spoke about the slum and his friendships there, but I was mainly staring at things attempting to take mental photographs of everything because I knew I couldn't casually whip out my camera and act like an idiotic tourist in this kind of setting. We entered a new building, and went to the fifth floor and knocked on the door, hoping to be greeted by Solo. Alas, he was out, but we were drawn into another fascinating world. An environment that massively reminded me of the The Territory in Paris, cow skins on the floor, metal wires hanging from the walls; simply through entering the door, we were now unofficial members of the 'Jolly Guys Kibera Social Club' (Catchy). Instantly, I was transfixed by the masses of metal wires that were attached to the wall, curled shapes, clouds that turn into animals and masks but are attached to a thing that the artist, called Gor Soudan, titled The Dream Transmitter. His work, which had recently been sent to Somerset House for the African Art Show, reminded me of Louise Bourgeois', the pain but also tenderness visible in it all. He lucidly described the way in which art should not be elevated to godly status, but understood and appreciated as a product of a person, something made out of something else. He then proceeded to talk and behave in a somewhat cliched artistic way, asking us for cigarettes, offering us Bangi and insisting that we stood ON his art (?). We took ourselves away after swapping names again and doing more strange goodbye handshakes (Note to self - must develop own special signature handshake.). Ronald then took us to visit another Atelier/Studio in the hope that Solo would actually be there, and of course he wasn't. Instead we met three more artists, who seemed a lot more 'normal'.

At this point, we were exhausted and boiling. It was around 28oc and our simple plan of having a quick meeting, had turned into a wild goose chase for a man who's name reminded me of 90's boy band. Anna and I exaggerated our fatigue and asked for Ronald to walk us towards somewhere we could get a Matatu home. On our way, his phone rang and it was the voice of slippery Solo7; we got him! He was sitting on the side of the road, wearing a luminous tie-dye top dragging on a cigarette. However, by then we were unable to string together much of a cohesive or interesting conversation and instead made arrangements to meet him the next week. We ran onto a Matatu without realising that we had no small change and no idea as to where the truck was actually taking us. When we finally got the attention of the young conductor to tell him we didn't have enough change, he took a tiny amount from us and looked me in the eye saying 'Tomorrow is a new day'. Then he jumped out of the moving truck, playfully punched an elderly man and got back in again as it moved onwards. 

1 comment:

  1. What an extraordinary day, an amazing adventure,can't wait for the next instalment!