The Quest for Independent Journalism in Kibera

Just as African stories are better when told by ourselves, Kibera’s stories are sweet when told by its residents. As technology continues to revolutionize the world, one of the core sectors that is being disrupted by technology is the media industry — from movie & music streaming to image capturing & editing. Technological advancement has given almost every corner of the world the power to take control of their creative powers, and not to wait for world’s superpowers to tell their stories or control how they tell their stories.

Image courtesy of Stories from Kibera

Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, has been (and continues) to be exploited by foreigners who visit the place with the aim of sharing its story and culture with the world. The visitors often share untruthful stories about the place, partly to meet their needs or satisfy their imaginations. This has led to a mostly negative portrayal of Kibera by the world’s media outlets.

It’s, therefore, only important for Kibera’s story to be told by its inhabitants. The main challenge, for a long time, has been the lack of enough Kibera-bred journalists or media ventures. Considering the social status of the majority of Kibera slum dwellers, the cost of setting up a media company is exorbitantly expensive for the majority of the residents. Also, the number of people who transition from high school to college is low — this makes it hard for Kibera residents to learn journalism skills.

However, as technology continues to penetrate and reach even the unserved and informal settlements such as Kibera slums, a dimming light can be seen from afar. Thanks to smartphones and social media platforms, aspiring journalists from places as such Kibera can now easily take pictures and videos that help tell their neighbourhood’s stories and upload them on the most popular social media platforms — such as Instagram and Facebook.

Also, the emergence of easily accessible vocational training centres has made it possible for residents to learn film skills, such as smartphone photography. One of such institutes is Tunapanda Institute, which offers a 3-month training program in technology, design, and business & communication to young people from Kibera and its environs. Earlier this year, Tunapanda Institute collaborated with a Mortinno Morton, Ghanaian filmmaker and Lawrence Kimani, a Kenyan-renowned video editor & director for a 1-month film workshop for Kibera’s aspiring creatives.

The emergence of technology and vocational training centres have also shed light and motivated aspiring journalists that they don’t need to wait for a fully furnished studio to unleash their creative potentials to the world. Recently, more aspiring journalists from Kibera have embraced the independent route to use smartphones and other not-so-standard equipment to tell stories through film.

Ondivow Photography. Picture courtesy of Ondivow Photography

Among the independently established names in Kibera include Brian Otieno who takes action pictures of activities taking place in Kibera and posts them on his wildly popular social media platforms (Storitellah — Instagram, Stories from Kibera — Facebook). Brian has been featured on the New York Times. You can support him by subscribing to his Patreon page. Ondivow is another independent filmmaker from Kibera. His works have been featured multiple times on Kenyan media outlets. He has also worked with local music household names such as Octopizzo.

Ondivow directed this Octopizzo’s music song

Another upcoming media venture that has great potential of disrupting Kibera’s journalism industry is RB Media. The venture was recently founded by Robert Ouma, a young resident who has been in Kenya’s film scene for a handsome amount of time. His venture aims to bring a new and exciting perspective to the local media industry.

Technology and practical skills are bringing power back to the hands of the local creatives who can tell stories in more authentic and exciting ways. Equally important, through these emerging local media ventures neighbourhoods are finding new avenues to employ and uplift each other. This is really important if we want to gentrify and develop our communities for future generations.

Lifelong learner.