Interviewing Coordinators in Nairobi
In the past week, Peace in Our Pockets cinematographer Dan Adeli and I focused on shooting sit-down interviews with Sisi ni Amani Coordinators in Nairobi. It was interesting and inspiring to hear about their childhoods, their experiences working for peace and development, and their plans to expand Sisi ni Amani’s work in coming months. We’ve faced some challenges, as well. We’re in the rainy season in Kenya and on most days the rain comes, sometimes in the morning hours, other times in the mid-afternoon. When the sun does peak back out or the rain clouds depart, we’ve had to dodge aural interruptions from school children out on recess, push carts bouncing down bumpy alleyways, geese squawking overhead, aircraft approaching a nearby airport, and women scrubbing clothes and floors. This is when we most miss having a location scout to find good interview settings for us before we arrive with our questions and equipment. Despite the environmental obstacles, however, we had plenty of great interviews in the can by week’s end.
At the end of each day, I wrote down interview notes and reflections I wanted to share here…
– Slums vs Informal Settlements. When I write about the film and talk about the project with family and friends, I share how we’ll be shooting much of the film in several Nairobi slums. Three of the Coordinators have referred to their communities as “informal settlements,” a term they said they prefer over a word filled with negative connotations.
As I spend more time with them in their communities, I am so impressed with the strength, liveliness, and creativity of the people living here.
– It’s all about relationships. Relationships were a recurring theme in the interviews this week. The Coordinators are weighty, respected leaders in their communities with reputations as leaders often dating back years before their involvement with Sisi Ni Amani. They have earned their reputations through many thousands of hours spent interacting and engaging with their friends and neighbors in ongoing, grassroots organizing work. I loved when Shiku smiled in her interview and said, “The other day in Huruma, my brother yelled, ‘Hey, Amani!’” Shiku said many others call her ‘Amani,’ meaning ‘Peace’.
– Arts education is alive and well in Baba Dogo. I have always been a big fan of arts education. I believe 100% in the power of art to enrich and educate young people, especially youth missing out on these kinds of experiences or engaging in risky behavior. George believes this too and has created his own arts education project at the ACREF Center in Baba Dogo. George is a talented musician, a band leader, and a teacher who wants to share his love of music with the children in his community. It was great fun hearing him perform with one of his bands and watching him and his colleagues teach students to sing, drum, and dance.
– The 2010 Kenyan Constitution. Over the past month and especially this week, people are talking about Kenya’s new Constitution. It’s in the papers each day. Sisi Ni Amani is using the document as a guiding document for their voter education and civic engagement work. The Constitution is a lengthy, complex, living document that will require every sector of Kenyan society, especially candidates for President and higher office, to respect and honor its implementation and implications as the March 2013 elections approach.
Screening a Debate in Huruma
On Friday afternoon, citizens filled a small Huruma meeting hall to watch a screening of a recent
debate with Country Assembly Representatives. The Sauti Yetu Debate team is using these screenings to expand their voter education work and to connect with people unable to attend the live debates. “It’s high time for community members to share what they want from their politicians, not have politicians tell them what they want,” Debate Moderator Yvonne Tyany said. Although most of the discussion was in Swahili and will not be translated until I return home, the messages were clear as many of the young attendees expressed their concerns about youth issues, including unemployment and education.
On Monday, Dan and I head out to Narok for several days of shooting in this more remote setting. Sisi Ni Amani’s second Chapter has been focused on peace work as it relates to land issues in this region of Kenya. I’m looking forward to meeting members of this team and hearing how the SMS platform has been an effective tool to prevent violence in several hot spots in the country. I have a lot to do in my last week in Kenya!