Monday, May 4, 2015


Nairobi Community Media House (NCMH) in Nairobi, Kenya is celebrating the 100th African Slum Journal. They wrote an introduction to their work for our blog:

Watch the real Africa!

While there are guided tours organized nowadays, it only happens occasionally that a white tourist visits a slum in an African city. Most Western people shy away from it. Nevertheless you can’t help yourself to be curious about what’s going on in these buzzing and overcrowded beehives full of people and business. How does the real Africa look like?

No one has to travel all the way down to discover it. Thanks to short movies, produced by young video reporters who originate from the slums, everybody now can easily witness the daily life of thousands of people in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. The reporters are operating from the Nairobi Community Media House, founded in 2011 by the Voices of Africa Media Foundation (VoAMF). Since that year the reporters have produced 99 African Slum Journals. The 100the will be festively presented on May 12 in the Press Museum in Amsterdam. 

Leaky bucket

Watching a Slum Journal one steps instantly into a buzzing and thriving world. Living amongst almost one million people, like in Kibera, the biggest slum of Nairobi, make people creative, inventive and enterprising. Everywhere one finds small traders and hawkers. By all means, Kenyan people are mastering the art of recycling. A bucket with a hole in it? Just go to one of those shops in Majengo Slum, where plastic utensils are being repaired with old plastic material. No money for the hairdresser? There is this lady in Dandora Slum, who recycles and sells hair extensions for a low price to the joy of many women who want to be fashionable. 


The metal workers who bear the proud name of Jua Kali (Swahili for ‘hot sun’) hammer tirelessly old and new metal in every kind of household tool. Clients from Uganda and Tanzania travel all the way in search of the meanwhile famous Jua Kali items, of much better quality than Chinese crap. Or watch the barter traders walking miles in town to exchange new plastic wares for old things as shoes, clothes or electronics. Mali kwa Mali you hear them shout, which means ‘Goods for goods’. Often they are chased away, even beaten up and there are days they make no trade at all. However, they keep on going.  


That’s what sticks to the mind watching several Slum Journals: against all odds and setbacks, people persist! After all, living in a slum is not easy. The reporters don’t hesitate to picture that as well. They record the miserable and unhealthy conditions at the biggest dumpsite of Nairobi where four thousand men, women and children struggle to generate a meager income or just some food to survive. One feels respect for the persistence of a teenage mother who continues school, in spite of her baby that she has to raise alone. The father rejected the baby, the parents of the young mother are not able to help. We see very old people fetching firewood in order to survive and women waiting whole days for a small job and low earnings as a household in middleclass estates, in order to feed their children.


We get to know enterprising and creative people. Like the talented graphic designers working on matatus and competing with each other which bus has the best graffiti art. Or meet Lal Daggy! Kenya’s first deaf rapper, who lives his dream becoming a rapper in sign language. Thanks to the African Slum Journal he could perform together with known Kenyan artists. 


Hope is what all sounds through: every slum inhabitant hopes for a better life. It might be the only significant difference between our western style lives and theirs in the slums. In comparison we have all we dreamt of. There is not much to hope for them in terms of wealth anymore. To what extent it is to our advantage of disadvantage, is to be observed in the African Slum Journals.

Watch the African Slum Journals on

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