Mathare PDF Print E-mail

Mathare is the second largest slum of the city, after Kibera. According to various informants, and the data collected by NGOs in the area, this slum is home to a population of about 500,000 inhabitants and covers about 1.5 square kilometres. Mathare is located about ten kilometres north of downtown along the Juia Road, near to the district of Eastleigh and to the military air base.
This settlement is developed within a valley crossed by the Mathare River which divides the area in two parts: Mathare Valley and Mathare North. Is divided into several villages: Bondeni, Kosovo, Mathare 4B, Mathare Numeber 10, Mathare 3A, Mathare 3C, Mabatini and Mashimoni Village. Before the independence, achieved in 1963, the Asians who lived in the territory possessed an area known as Mathare, where they had built, around 1921, a small village. When, in 1952, the State of Emergency was declared, the area was razed by the British colonists, who were convinced that it was a stronghold of the rebel Mau Mau group. Subsequently, the Mau Mau, which consisted mainly of Kikuyu, were able to return to Mathare where they settled permanently. Afterwards in this area a quarry was discovered, which began to attract workers from various areas near to Nairobi and where they began to build the first houses - since during the colonial period the Africans were not allowed to reside in the city. With the end of colonialism the and later with the abolition of the laws, that restricted the movement of the natives, began a massive migration from rural areas to the city.

Therefore the informal settlements such as Mathare, began to grow and expand without following any town plan. The government, initially let these new citizens to settled in, in the belief that it would be a temporary condition, but over the years the slum expanded itself and lost that character of temporality in which the government had believed. The land on which Mathare stands, belongs formally to the government even if part of it was sold to private owners. Also this slum is considered an illegal settlement that is not recognized officially by the state and, neither the government nor the private owners had ever estimated, much less made any kind of planning and distribution of the services and of the basic infrastructures.

The situation is common to all the other slums that surround Nairobi: the residents live in a highly polluted and degraded environment, lacking of basic services such as having drinkable water, adequate toilet services, a drainage structure and a system of collection and disposal of the waste. The private owners sold the water at high prices: around 5 shillings per 20 litres; for this reason many people seek to abusively connect to the water pipelines. Mathare is so full of open-pit dumps, the waste is spread everywhere, accumulated to the sides of the streets, or thrown into the river which, during the rainy season, floods.
The illiteracy level is high, especially concerning the adult population, in particularly the women. The schools are few and overcrowded - we’re talking about "street schools" that are not recognized by the Ministry of Education. For this reason, in order to go to the high school, a very difficult state exam has to be sit, and only 10% of the students are able to access the upper level. In addition, many children cannot access in any way, because the indirect cost, such as school uniforms and books, are to high.

For what concerns the health system, we can say that the population of Mathare has been completely abandoned by the authorities, there are no hospitals, except some minor surgery or medicine dispensary, built by voluntary organizations. HIV is a pathology that has also hit the slums (60% of the population is infected with HIV). Compared to the major slums of Nairobi, Mathare has the primacy of the highest prevalence rates.



is a story about Mathare slum, starting from the stories of its inhabitants, a story made up especially of faces, voices and stories of the ghetto. The story of every single individual was privileged, without losing sight of the general themes and the geography of the slums. A way needed to respect the social fragility of the situations that we faced and to enter in the context respecting the times and the complexity of the world "NairobiSlums".

The project was constructed using both video and photography for the portraits and interviews we made. The direct experience has led us to consider how the music scene is important and significant in the life of Mathare and we started then from the musicians, from their belonging to the slums and from their network, in order to widen the vision on the community of tweenties, the statistically middle age in the slums. The character of the young musician who, with the lyrics of his songs, invites to a new and proud awareness of belonging to the ghetto - which alert the young generations not to let themselves be bought and used by Kenyan politicians and their false promises - has become a reference behaviour model in the ghetto.

We have been helped by protagonists that have guided us in their quotidian experience in order to tell the story from within Mathare. A story from the heart that brings together very different identities, from the histrionic irony of some singer-songwriters to the social complaints, the pride of the Hip - Hop artists, from the ethnic Luo storytellers (who, following the track of the traditional melodies, tell stories of everyday misery and AIDS), to the dancers who tell the ethnical origins of the slums population contaminating the traditional dance with elements of contemporary dance, to the boxer girl who teaches self defence to the kids in a social situation where the children violence are unfortunately a big issue of the quotidian.

A journey in which we have reformulated the ghetto maps going along with the memory of the daily life which we perceived and which is supposed to be our way of crossing. In this context, the music was not only a magnificent moment of self-managed and shared creativity, but also a pass to get into the problems of the slums, which allowed us to enrich the musicians stories with other equally intense stories, to create a video and photo project which can be more possibly shred and participated by third.

HEAD QUARTER Liveinslums ex-Opificio via Tortona 31, Milano / CF: 97558730152

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