No Idling - Kenya

Nearly half of Nairobi, Kenya’s three million residents live in one of over 60 ‘informal settlements’. The neighbourhood of Kibera, originally settled by a group called the Nubians in 1904, is one of the largest informal urban communities in the world. Infrastructure and services, including water, sanitation, electricity, health services, education, and law enforcement are lacking, making Kibera a difficult place for people to live in. The lack of employment opportunities and thereby resources, often leads to people having no choice but to 'idle' or pass time, waiting for any semblance of opportunity.

Mike Davis from Planet of Slums says it best; “Out of unhealthy, crowded and often dangerous environments can emerge cultural movements and levels of solidarity unknown in the suburbs of the rich”. 

Stepping into Kibera for the first time I was immediately fascinated by the ingenuity of its residents. Kiberans are masters at overcoming adversity through resourcefulness, creativity and by placing an unprecedented value on the role of community in individual survival.


Through this work I hope to celebrate these amazingly resilient people. The conditions of poverty in Kibera prevent most from attaining what people in developed countries would rate as acceptable standards of living but the disadvantages do not stop them. The energy, talent and ingenuity, of young people in Kibera, an environment that presents so many obstacles, especially inspire me.

Photographs made in 2013, 2014, and 2017.

Images from 2014 were made possible with the help of the Toronto Arts Council.

In October 2017 I revisited No Idling in the informal settlements of Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, leading up to, during, and following the controversial presidential re-run elections. The ongoing series and description continues following new work from 2017.

A man walks across a field used for a game of children's football next to a road being constructed through Kibera.

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People walk past and sit near a viaduct in Kibera, over which a highway travels, with the word Amanji (peace) graffitied on it.

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A woman sits on a ledge next to a typical business along the main road in the Amani area of Kibera.

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Men hang off the side of a bus along Kibera Drive on presidential re-run election day.

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Juma Abdullah a youth leader turned campaigner for the opposition, sits in front of his friend's barbershop on Kibera Drive.

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A man strikes a pose. He often sifts through a heap of garbage along Kibera's main road at this location.

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On the presidential re-run election day an opposition supporting protester points in the direction of police while holding a rock in his hand during clashes between police and protesters next to Olympic Primary School in the slums of Kibera.

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Members of the youth group called Wasakaji (or Gogetters) at their regular meeting spot in the Kamukunji area of Kibera.

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A child climbs a hill with accumulated garbage, on top of which is a railway that runs through Kibera.

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Business has been down for months, with the political uncertainty following the annulled presidential elections in August, says Fidel Paul, center, who works at this Butchery in the village of Makina in Kibera. In the background is Fidel's friend Nixon Mangi.

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Three days following Kenya's disputed presidential re-run election Bryan Adho, a supporter of the opposition, sits at home on his bed in Kibera, his right arm recovering from a rubber bullet hit sustained during protests near Olympic Primary School.

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Nubian women prepare fried potatoes in the village of Makina two days before the presidential re-run elections.

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Two-year-old Bruno with his mother in a stall at Toi market in the slums of Kibera. 

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Three days after the presidential re-run elections children play as a man walks by below the railway that runs through Kibera. Residents of this part of Kibera claim that they will be displaced due to plans for the expansion of the railway. They blame the government for not looking after their interests.

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In the village of Makina in Kibera proud voter Nyeusi stands in front of where he conducts business, behind him are two men he referred to as his grandfathers. The man on the far right is Ismail Ahmed Babahla who once drove the first president of Kenya Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, from Nairobi to Uganda.

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A woman carrying a child at Makina stage after exiting a matatu (minibus), looks towards the Olympic area where clashes between protesters and police take place.

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A man cuts a chain with a welder along Kibera Drive near Ayani Stage.

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Bob, who leads a youth group called Wasakaji (or Gogetters), stands in his bedroom.

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Nubian filmmaker Hassan Ahmed works on an edit.

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Musician Shon Buoy stands in a studio in Kibera speaking on the phone. 

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Musician Unyck Mary in studio.

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Two friends named Hurnik, left, and James, right, stand outside a business on Karanja Road in a peaceful area of Kibera while clashes between protesters and police take place in a neighbouring area.

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Men seen sitting in a stall along Kibera drive where potatoes are prepared for french fries, several days following the presidential re-run election as clashes continue in nearby Olympic estate.

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A man stands near a blazing fire that claimed many shops along the main road in Kibera's Olympic Estate on the day after the results of the controversial presidential rerun election results were announced. Although not fully clear how the fire was started many claimed that it was caused by people leaving in a panic and tear gas explosions set off by police. 

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2013 and 2014 images continue.
NICK KOZAK

A man stands looking out on to Kibera from the railway line that runs through the informal settlement and doubles as a main pedestrian passage.  

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Jane Wambui dusts products in front of her shop by the railway in the Laini Saba area.

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NICK KOZAK

A boy looks outward of the tiny kitchen of the St. Batholomew Nursery and Preschool.


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Children form a 'Kiberan vehicle', in this case a 'train', as they play in a street. 

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A man named Yusuf stands in front of his shop.

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A young man sits in the room where he runs an arcade for young people. Above him spray-painted on the wall is the commonly seen message instructing people of 'no idling'.

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NICK KOZAK

A young man collects water in a jug during a downpour in the village of Lindi in the informal settlements of Kibera.

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NICK KOZAK

Samina P Wacasey.

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Shem Kiyaka Mogaka.

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Children and a teacher in a primary school classroom in the village of Makina.

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Seventy-five-year-old Ismail Hassan Bhai holds out a lit match as one of his young neighbours, one-and-a-half-year-old Raymond, looks on.

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A woman walks by as a young girl smiles into the camera. 

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NICK KOZAK

Children entertain themselves with Playstation games at an arcade.


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Singer Abrah Bino directs a remote control at a television in the living room of a home.

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Juma Abdullah sits at his desk in the tiny office where he runs his organization called the Needy Kids Foundation along the main ring road around Kibera. 


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Singer Abrah Bino, shows his six-month-old daughter Zyion something on his cellphone at his mother's home. 

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NICK KOZAK

An artist named Mahmoud, aka Mudu, paints on the entrance of a hair salon on Karanja Street.


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NICK KOZAK

Hillary Ambei. 


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NICK KOZAK

Bade Isaac Aluoch.


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NICK KOZAK

Artist Brian Turoq uses a refrigerator as a cabinet for storing his work, photographs, and other files, in his room at home.

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NICK KOZAK

Three young women react as they watch music videos at a home in the Makina village.

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A man named Junior stands at the counter of his friend Silas's (on the right of the frame) beauty shop in the village of Lindi.

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NICK KOZAK

Along a paved road in the village of Makina a young man peels potatoes in front of a furniture shop as two children play nearby.

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NICK KOZAK

A young man resurfaces the mud wall of a residential house in the village of Makina. A man he was working with all day looks on as a child stands nearby. 

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NICK KOZAK

Men dance in the streets during a Christian religious event on a Sunday along a busy pedestrian route.


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NICK KOZAK

David Chege.

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David Amuhaya.

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Boxers train at the Joseph Kangethe Boys Rehabilitation Centre as part of the Omar Kasongo Sports Academy program in Kibera.


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A young woman looks out the window of the Nubian Rights Foundation in Makina. 

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Along the main road in the informal settlements of Kibera a man named Edmond Mogitu pauses as he tends to kale grown in a public garden set up by the Kibra Junction Youth Group he founded.

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A child does a back flip during an informal game of soccer.

 

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