Traffic avoidance is a way of life in this bustling city that has more vehicles than are actually necessary. In one such attempt I found myself near the Goethe Institute, which is increasingly gaining artistic prominence through its bold exhibitionism of progressive ideals and budding artists. These artists’ themes mainly revolve around prevalent class conflicts that are experienced by inhabitants such as those living in Kibera vis-à-vis those who live in the more upmarket areas such as Lavington.     

On this fateful weekend, the Goethe people were paying homage to what they said was one of our very own and very best in the art of filmmaking, having moved from strength to strength with the passing of time like the adage of good wine – Judy Kibinge. On show was perhaps one of her several documentaries on guess what…yap, you guessed it right – Kibera!  Well, I still decided to go ahead and pitch camp, who knows perhaps more juicy acts would follow. Besides, why should we misjudge the book cover, Judy may bring out a third dimension to Kibera, which I had not envisaged.
Map of Kiberacourtesy of www.mapkiberaproject.yolasite.com

As the reel roiled on, two amusing things happened. Local activists of the NGO kind started vacating while more of what I would consider as expatriates made their way in. The Kibera tale did have a third angle after all! Somehow, the social welfare cum human rights activists could not bear the documentary or they had seen it many times over. Better still, in the presence of their expatriate donors, the documentary may have brought out the ineffectiveness of social welfare activism. It was like a form of NGO guilt – the expatriates had entrusted them with sums of money to help the urban poor, where was the progress? A tinge of scandal was in the air…   
Coincidentally, the late comers were just in time to see how a radio station, started with donations from USAID, was helping the people of Kibera to air their views, get informed as well as create employment. Wow! Their eyes glittered with pride, how they had helped these wretched, and sometimes ungrateful, people! What would these destitute do without this generous spirit; their usefulness has been clearly demonstrated and their right of place reaffirmed. Even though the show was not half way yet, Goethe’s exhibitionism had already served its purpose. In a form of what can be termed as “ex-inhibition”, it has exhibited the worthiness of the expatriate community while at the same time underlining the limitations of the Kenyan socio-economic fabric thereby reinforcing local allegiance to expats.
Fifteen minutes later, I decided that a traffic update and some fresh air were in order, having gleaned what I could from the colorful documentary and its audience. However, after sauntering around town it became clear that the traffic had not gotten any lighter and the sensible thing was to go back to the VIP perch reserved for guests like me.  And so, I found my way back to the auditorium to once again muse at art in its virulent form.

Killer Necklace
This time round, a film titled “Killer Necklace” was showing and I must say that the picture quality was impressive. So I got myself a sit at the back of the hall and did my best to decipher its plot. Some aspects of the film vividly brought out the urban struggle with vice and virtue as experienced in both the inner city tenements (slums) and the leafy suburbia. The plot centered around a young man who found out the hard way that his strivings to be an accountant could not rescue him from the poverty that surrounded him and the only way out was to steal from the rich by any means; for even they had gained their riches through public theft in the name of politics and government contracts and such other dubious means.  Moreover, even if he became an accountant, he would be employed to count stolen money for the nuevo riche and in the end die poor!
The film seems to carry with it the stack reality of helplessness that pervades society whereby the social-economic structure consists mainly of an extortion racket that goes all the way to the bottom of the “food chain”. But at the end of it, I felt that something had been left out. This chain of events begins with the proud African who has already amassed wealth and ends up with petty offenders in the periphery of this system. However, it does not account for the source of the rich man’s material wealth.     
Perhaps, Judy did not want to offend the sensibilities of her hosts or simply overlooked the fact that the bulk of the wealthy African “businessmen” mint their dough as middlemen for expatriate enterprises and as such the vicious cycle actually starts with the people of Goethe!   Some of these foreign companies have been known to extract contracts from Government through the services of local politicians who ensure that the contracts come their way in return for a slice of the pie. In addition, foreign aid often comes with conditions that ensure the awarding of contracts to companies from the donor nation and as such it is a form of kickback. Consequently, the ills begotten of the current social economic strains do not originate from the middle man but are rather ordered from “above”.  
I’m certainly convinced that Judy is capable of making a film that encompasses these silent contradictions. However, it would have to be aired elsewhere as the theme would go beyond the bounds of what Goethe might consider progressive. It therefore follows that for her to break out of this inhibition mould, she might have to break off with the traditions of her immediate sponsor and strike out into uncharted territory; away from her constrained exhibitionism or “ex-inhibition” for lack of a better word.

By Poe. T. Critik 

About Kenyan Poet

Showcasing the best in Kenyan Arts;Music,writing,Poetry,fine art and art reviews as well as info on emerging art trends. “Art is not about thinking something up. It is the opposite…getting something down.”