Maasai Mbili art Collective: Ashif Malamba, Kevo Stero, Otieno Gomba, Anita Kavochy, Otieno Raballa, Wycliffe Opondo
Creativity is the DNA of Kibera slum, the largest slum in Africa. People in the slum have managed to make things work with a minimum of resources. Kibera gives new meaning to the hackneyed phrase "Necessity is the mother of invention" by injecting creativity in this urban space where you can find everything and anything. The slum has changed quite a bit since my parents started their tavern business there in 1994. The slum used to be pitch black at night with glowing dots of Kerosene lit lanterns in most homes, but today the night time is lit up by towering floodlights that have led to a booming nighttime market economy.
The Maasai Mbili Art Collective - started in 2001 by Otieno Gomba and Otieno Kota - has done most of the sign writing in Kibera today. Think of Safaricom MPESA shops, Barber Shops, Salons, Bars and others. Creative sign writing has benefited both the night and day economies of the slum as business competition heats up. Original signs help businesses set themselves apart from the rest of their competition. Maasai Mbili also make original work on canvas, bringing their street art into their Kibera studio and making it accessible to the world. Otieno Gomba, who co- founded the collective asserts, "we now believe that creativity is a matter of embracing risk and going after your dreams."
It was such a pleasure interviewing the Maasai Mbilli crew. They reminded me why Nairobi, and Kibera in particular, is a special place for distinctive urban grassroots ideas.