Mathare Futurism X BOM

Towards the end of 2019, BOM Director Karen travelled to Nairobi Kenya. She was there with Dr Francis Pope from University of Birmingham’s Environmental Sciences department as part of The ASAP Project. The project is a University of Birmingham research programme in collaboration with three East African countries: Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda.

East Africa is currently experiencing massive urbanisation and population growth, with the population (and corresponding air pollution) both set to double by 2030.

The ASAP project aims to improve air quality management in three East African cities by enhancing local decision-making abilities to improve urban air quality, reduce the effects of air pollution upon human health, and allow for sustainable development to proceed without further deterioration in air quality.

At an ASAP conference Karen met Wyban Kanyi, an activist, community facilitator and musician. When you meet Wyban it is hard not to be energised by the passion for his community as well as art and music. Wyban lives in Mathare, the second biggest informal settlement in Africa.

He is a part of The Mathare Green Movement {MGM} which is a grassroots urban greening initiative that focuses on ecological justice, with an aim to promote the conservation, restoration and overall improvement of the environment in Mathare. The initiative combines concerns about mental health empowerment, health, justice and human rights through the creation of green safe spaces by mobilising and supporting the people of Mathare to plant and care for trees, clean the environment and rejuvenate depleted urban landscapes. They use the platform to educate the community on their rights and strategies of reducing crime in the neighbourhood through planting trees for a greener, cooler and more beautiful landscape.

We were blown away with what Wyban and his peers were doing, we decided to collaborate with MGM, to support their work in this reclaiming of their air and land and present an exhibition in early 2021. Then Covid 19 happened.

Wyban contacted us to let us know that (like most of the world), priorities had changed, perspectives had shifted, they had to act on this virus and quickly. The community desperately needed ways of sharing factual information, they needed materials to improve sanitation and hygiene. So we shifted the project, we responded quickly and we are supporting MGM to tackle the pandemic. Naturally Wyban is doing this in creative ways and we look forward to sharing this with an exhibition at BOM later in the year.

Watch this beautiful film to find out more about Wyban and Mathare . . . .

Please note, there are images of mild drug use (smoking of marijuana) in this film.