Bryan's View: Gatwekera village

Note from Krista:  I may have spent time in Kibera Slums, but the truth is I don't know what it is like to live there. To grow up there. So we welcome Bryan - a lifelong Kibera resident - and his weekly posts to shed some light to what life is like in Kibera - written right from Kibera! This is where so much of our jewelry comes from - and as you read his posts weekly, I'm sure you will recognize why we are so passionate about empowering the men and women there through job creation! Thank you Bryan for sharing your insights through word and photos!

I grew up in this village called Gatwekera, it extends from the South West to the South East of Kibera. If only Kibera was a country then this would be it's economic capital city. It's a village full of life and love. The people are friendly and would go up and about pursuing their dreams and trying to better their life. Gatwekera is so big that an overview of it from a Birdseye view would form something of a long the line that resembles a crescent. It's is surrounded by about 8 of the 14 Kibera villages.

The streets here are full of dirt and rubbish but that's not a problem to the residents - there are greater things in life to complain about. Just besides these streets lies trenches of dirty drainage waters on both sides of the road. They are ever full and smelly. The trenches are blocked by polythene papers and vegetables refuse from the roadside small scale business ventures.

There is a lot of business going on in Gatwekera village - food vendors would take the number one slot here. In almost every street corner and dirty alley of this vast slum capital city, there's always a woman peeling potatoes to make French fries (chips). On the other side of the road, you'll see both men and women frying mandazi, each with their own business but the quality and quantity of your product would bring you more customers. That's the reason why you see a group of people gathered at one makeshift mandazi seller's table while the other one has customers. Apart from that there is a whole lot of open air salons, barber shops, not forgetting the pay-to-eat makeshift food stores.

If Kibera was a play, the Gatwekera village would be the stage, down here lies all kinds of people. All actors at some point in life. The streets of Gatwekera has the most funny and traumatizing drama as far as Kibera is concerned. At some point you would come back home one evening and see drunk people singing to their passion, deploying all crazy stunts, some would narrate of how they once worked for the Kenya Army, on the other side another drunkard would say he was once the bodyguard of a former president of Kenya before quitting the game to look for greener pastures. And, the day wouldn't come to a end before you see two drunkards fighting over an unpaid debt - in most cases a woman whom in reality none of them would get. I find this dramatic and it needs a director, a producer, and an editor to make a thrilling blockbuster. Something like 'Drunken Masters of Kibera'.

In Gatwekera there is a great talent, on these streets would find dancers pulling their stunts at will attracting onlookers. Their are singers and poets from different organizations who strive to support Kibera in any possible way. All these actions would take place at Kamukunji grounds - Kibera's political meeting point. In Kamukunji grounds is where laws are made. Infact, this was the epicenter of the railway uprooting strategy that took place in 2008, post election violence. This is where the uprooting started. Gatwekera is violent and it's always the government's opposition stronghold.

Gatwekera is also a jungle of modern technology, infact it abuses it a lot. Above Gatwekera's skyline lies a trail of timber each holding either a television antenna or connecting one electric cable to another. An epitome that in almost every household in Gatwekera there's a television set.

Just above the railway line, there is always an empty space somewhere. Here kids would gather and form a complete football (soccer) team complete with substitutes and spectators. That's how serious football is in Gatwekera. Then you would wait for a small round ball made of polythene papers to take charge on the grounds. There is no Jabulani (professional ball) here. Just this round ball made from nylon. Kids would play to their passion, a scene that would tell you how dreams are made. In these streets football is life and power. It brings them together. Both boys and girls would hit this ball just like a pro.

Gatwekera has it's bad and evil side too. A ground for drugs, prostitution, early marriages, school dropouts, robbery, teenage pregnancies, abortion and other constitutes that dehumanizes prosperity.

Bryan Jaybee was born and raised in Kibera slums where he still resides. He is 22 years old and a journalism student at Multimedia University of Kenya, currently in his final year. Bryan will be sharing an insider’s view on life in Kibera every Tuesday on our blog with his photos and words. You can follow Bryan on instagram at @kiberastories for daily posts on life in Kibera. 

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