Tag Archives: waste

Zero to hero

On day one, these people had literally never held a camera before. When we talked, at some point, about what they’d learned, one answer was: now I know that I can hold the camera like that [landscape format] or like that [portrait format]. Another: I know now that if the camera is further away, the objects look smaller.

By day four, two of them went out and – within one hour – came back with this (originally 15 mins of footage – I edited it down to 5):

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Taking your trash out

I know – another post about rubbish – but only because of this guy, who we saw frantically rooting around for plastic bottles and such, unknown to the driver. Somehow, he retains his balance round corners and over bumps, managing to fill a sackful before he jumps off, at the last moment – before the truck turns off the main road and disappears into the depths of the Dandora dump.

Trash-2 Continue reading

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Keep driving

This is what a photo of  (my) fear looks like – taken from behind a blacked out (still moving) car window.  It’s the edge of the infamous dump in Dandora, a suburb of Nairobi. At 30 acres, it’s one of the world’s largest urban rubbish dumps, and a site of gang violence, pollution and daily desperation.

Dump Continue reading

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Land of opportunity

Impromptu interview with Erasto, a filmmaker who took me on a brief tour of Kibera.

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Burn it

Putting the bins outJennipher (age 9) looks after me – offering to clean my shoes, bringing my tea. There’s something to be said for the hierarchy of age that reigns in this part of the world, though when it extends to gender, it’s less appealing (e.g. girls kneel before their elders when greeting or thanking them, in a sign of respect, but boys don’t).

Anyway, one evening, Jennipher takes the rubbish from my room. ‘Now we burn it’, she says, brightly.

Next thing, I find myself crouched on the garbage heap next to our house, along with Jennipher and a few other kids (younger still), all knelt over the match that refuses to light. The plastic bag I’d tied up has been ripped open and a week’s worth of my waste is scattered at our feet: empty water bottles, dirty tissues and, well, personal stuff. I can’t remember now if it’s bad to burn plastic (fumes?), but it sure as hell is a bad idea to stand in a heap of waste picking up bits of used tissues. Continue reading

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The good, the bad, and the ugly list-making habit

In Mama Dar, a book of short stories about Dar es Salaam, one writer recalls her first few weeks here as being not positive, not negative – just experiencing a numbness as she tries to figure out how things work. Another friend who’s just arrived says the same: trying to answer the question of whether she likes it here or not just doesn’t work.

I had the same feeling – I still do. Living here is still just a mish-mash of the wonderful and intriguing, the infuriating and depressing. My answer ends up involving listing a few examples of the good and bad stuff. Maybe for wherever one lives, whatever one does, it’s like that. But being somewhere new, I guess, makes you a bit more receptive to the everyday experience. The unfamiliarity makes for deeper impressions.

So – now that I’ve accepted that I’m never going to break my list-making habit – here it is, in no particular order. Now stop asking us if we like it here. Continue reading

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The wrong shoes

It could have been much worse, of course – could have been my camera and not my pencil that I dropped in the sewage. Still, I felt pretty stupid for adding to the already existing mounds of waste that clog up every artery of this neighbourhood. And then even worse when one of the villagers showing me round ignored my pleas to abandon the pencil and instead slithered down the bank to fish it out from among the shit and plastic and stagnant, opaque water.

This is Tandale, a poor neighbourhood on the outer edges of Dar, where waste is not collected often enough, if at all; where housing is “unplanned”; and where the only clean water is that which is sold – for a high price – by private traders. Continue reading

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Nasty, desperate and dangerous

Open sewer in small-town Lushoto (25,000 inhabitants). Imagine this in a city of several million

An image is firmly rooted in my mind now, though I hadn’t dared to take my camera on the bajaj (motor-rickshaw) drive through Mikocheni and Mwenge neighbourhoods: there are loads of people on the streets, as always, watching the world go by, or carrying things, or selling something. Among them, one man is sitting, relaxing, feet propped up, and just below his feet passes an open drain, a channel of the city’s plastic and grime and shit and junk.

Maybe it’s because I’d had a break from the city, some clear air and fresh vegetation for a few days – but somehow seeing that today filled me with disgust. Continue reading

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