2020 has been a tumultuous year for all of us. We have survived the worst parts of a global pandemic that, although we would hope otherwise, still persists. We have seen protests around the world as people come to terms with how dire our collective state has become. These struggles have ranged from a lack of universally accessible healthcare and basic needs to complacent governments and police brutality.
Of the latter Kenya has seen numerous police killings under COVID-19 restrictions including the heart-breaking death of Yassin Hussein Moyo, 13, who was killed on his balcony after the dusk to dawn curfew began. At around the same period, huge crowds of commuters at the country’s coast trying to access the ferry were doused with teargas and beaten enmasse. There have been more incidents, but most remain suppressed or ignored.
Although many Africans have experienced either police brutality or government impunity those most affected are Africans living in low income areas. It is a story of poverty; it is a story of classism and social-economic oppression.
Social commentary meets representative theatre
More than ever there is a need for representative social commentary as a way of effecting positive change. One such project is a new audio drama titled, ‘Tales of the Accidental City’ produced by Kenyan art and media company, Positively African.
The audio play tells the story of four Nairobi residents who find themselves stuck together in an anger management class after being accused by the courts of various misdemeanours. It is a portrait of Nairobi, but it also tells the story of many African cities challenged by population growth, economic inequality and social injustice.
Tales of the Accidental City is based on four short stories from a collection called ‘Humans of Nairobi’, by writers Sitawa Namwalie, Kevin Mwachiro, Margaret Muthee and Maïmouna Jallow. It depicts many African cities challenged by population growth, economic inequality and social injustice.
According to director Maïmouna Jallow, “through the four characters, I wanted to explore what it means to live in any African city in 2020. I have travelled to all parts of this continent and whether I’m in Nairobi, Accra or Addis, I often feel like our cities are not made for us. The majority lives in the cracks. They constantly have to fight a system that should be there to serve them.”
The 90-minute drama separated into three episodes, premiered at the virtual Ake Arts & Book Festival on the 22nd of October.
As with many literary and theatrical yarns, the play has spawned another series titled, “Nairobi Ni Mimi” (Nairobi is Me). The series will be a further reflection of realistic city life across Africa’s capitals and hubs.
You can listen to the full episodes on the Positively African Anchor page here.
Telling our stories matters
Similar to the popular social impact project, ‘Humans Of New York’, where profound conversations with city occupants are documented in written format, ‘Nairobi Ni Mimi’ will feature ordinary Nairobians attempting to find space within the confines of a burgeoning metropolis.
As our emphasis remains in stimulating debates, conversation and showcasing everyday experiences, This is Africa is proud to partner with Positively African to bring you this exploration into indigenous knowledge, experiences and African identities.
We will visualise through these Africans, the diverse experiences and narrative of communities, networks and groups. This series will challenge norms (gender norms, static identities and cultural beliefs) and reflect the often side-lined or “othered” lived and current realities. Ultimately, we hope that through these stories you too can find your account of what it is to be African.
‘Nairobi Ni Mimi’ will run on our website and social media platforms from mid-November to December. Follow our platforms to catch the weekly release.