8 February 2017

Just Being Me

Just Being Me

Encounters with some vulnerable children in Kenya

My belief and hypothesis is that children in general long to be ordinary, to fit in, to belong and to be in an environment that could be considered as home. Through this photographic documentary my primary aim is to explore this hypothesis by getting to know some children in vulnerable situations and search for the ordinary in their lives, or their dreams of being ‘ordinary’. My project consists of environmental portraits of ordinary situations in some vulnerable children’s lives.

Faith, 5 years old, plays in her blue skirt with her sister and neighbours outside her house while her mother is working. Faith’s father died in 2012 and now she lives with her pregnant mother and sister Grace.

Lucy attends the Special Unit at Ongata Ronkai Primary School. She has a slight mental disorder and is placed with 28 other children of various ages and challenges. Having a developmental disability can mean that you are not totally accepted by other people and it is not unusual to be sexually abused by relatives or friends of the family. The classroom can therefore be a refuge for these children.

Katana, 2.5 years old, lives together with her mother in Langata Women’s Prison. They have lived there almost 2 years after Katana’s mother was first sentenced to jail for child neglect. Katana’s aunt reported the mother after an argument. Katana and her mother will be free in January.

John Masau, 12 years old, lives with Albinism and attends Thika Salvation Army School for Visually Impaired. John has vision but is extremely near sighted. He is receiving sun cream to bring home before he leaves school for a two month long Christmas break. People with Albinism are often subjected to a double vulnerability: first off all, a physical lack of pigments in the skin, hair and eyes makes one tremendously susceptible to sunsunburn, while widespread stigma and cultural discrimination have created vulnerability to exploitation, including risk of abuse for the purposes of witch craft.

Margaretha, 16 years old has recently become a mother of Robin now 4 months. Margaretha fell pregnant while still attending school. She had to drop out and missed the final exams for primary school, the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education. While Margaretha’s dream is to go back to school, she now has to work as a day labourer washing clothes for others in order to care for Robin. Margaretha and Robin live with her mother.

Mary, 7 years, Zulfa, 10 years and Latifa, 5 years old, are sisters who live with their aunt in Masai. Their father died and their mother moved to another town.

Dennis is dancing. Like Lucy he goes to Ongata Ronkai Primary School’s special unit. He is also classified as ‘mentally’ . He has little speech and he cries and screams when he gets excited.

Fabian is five weeks old. He was born at Kenyatta Hospital but now lives with his mother Rahaab at Langata Women’s prison. Rahaab has been on remand in prison for one year while waiting for her court case to take place. She is accused of robbery.

Nicholas, 9 years, in what has been his home for just one month. He lives with his mother Eunice, sister and brother. His father died five years ago and since then his mother works as a day labourer when possible. They have been dependant on close family in order to survive and have been forced to move often because of failure to pay the rent.

Gloria plays outside in the courtyard with her neighbours and cousins. Gloria lives with her mother and brother. Her mother grew up as an orphan, without parents. Today she is both the sole parent of her children and also supports her cousin and her cousin’s children.

Faith, 19 years old, with her daughter Blessing, 18 months. Faith was brought by with her mother and now lives in Kangemi with her mother, her sister and baby.

Zainab is 12 years old and goes to year 4 in Thika Salvation Army School for Visually Impaired. Zainab was born with Albinism.