Photography from Nairobi’s slum children

Sunday September 10 2017

Raising Voices is an exhibition of

Raising Voices is an exhibition of sports-themed pictures taken by children from Nairobi's Mathare slum. PHOTO | KARI MUTU 

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Children from Nairobi’s Mathare slums grow up in harsh circumstances with limited opportunities.

But now the Mathare Foundation, a community-based organisation, is training them in photography. A selection of their pictures are being shown at the Alliance Française in Nairobi.

Raising Voices is an exhibition of sports-themed pictures taken by the children, featuring basketball, football, cricket and volleyball. At the exhibition’s opening, the budding photographers were on hand to explain their work.

Several pictures feature football matches played on bare dirt pitches. Here the children demonstrate their skills in capturing the foreground, middle ground and background to lead the viewers eye through each level of the picture. A different photo focusing on the subject shows many hands reaching up to a volleyball framed by the net, electricity lines and an overcast sky.

The Foundation explained that juvenile delinquency is very high in the Mathare slum, with youth at risk of petty crimes, prostitution, substance abuse and teenage pregnancy. The charity provides free classes in the performing arts, photography and sports. The aim is to reduce “radicalisation among the youth in Mathare,” and engage them in productive activities.

Some 25 children between the ages of eight and 16 were selected for the Raising Voices photography workshop, who were then trained in foundational methods for a year.

The portraits show a referee blowing a bright yellow whistle, a player balancing a basketball on one finger, and a hand holding a football up against red soil (pictured).

Other pictures feature close-up action shots of a player jumping up shooting a basketball, a girl batting a cricket ball, and two boys competing to dribble balls.

Eric Omwanda, a co-founder of Mathare Foundation and the photography teacher, said the children learn camera skills quickly, and that it gives them a chance to visualise life in the slums. And although the photos may not be spectacular, it is clear that the youngsters have understood the essentials of photography.

Fellistars, one of the students, thanked the French Embassy and the British High Commission for supporting them with camera equipment. The exhibition is on until September 10.