Nairobi, Kenya is a rapidly growing city of over three million people. Many new inhabitants come from outside Kenya, fleeing violence and poverty in places like neighboring Somalia and Ethiopia; others come to take advantage of the city’s role as a major financial capital of Africa. Many new residents, however, are poor Kenyans from the countryside looking for a way to support their families back home.
Operating on a small grant from the Jerome Foundation, my colleague spent three months doing initial research for a long-form documentary project about rural to urban migration in Kenya. With an invitation from the filmmaker to help with this initial research, I jumped at the chance to spend March of 2013 with him, shooting, producing, and editing initial footage for this long-term project. In that month we traveled across Kenya, from Nairobi and its neighboring slums to the small fishing islands of Lake Victoria.
Many internal migrants in Kenya leave their farms and villages in search for work in the slums outside Nairobi. Tyrus is no exception. The eldest son of Selene, a widowed mother of 6, Tyrus left Mfangano, a small fishing and farming island on Lake Victoria and headed to Ruiru, a small town three kilometers from Nairobi in search of work. With the lack of funds to pay for school, and a declining fishing industry on the island due to overfishing and pollution, Tyrus saw opportunity in a job working in a blanket factory far from home to help ensure his brothers and sisters have the opportunity to go to school, and that his whole family can buy food to eat.
With Tryus laboring away in Ruiru, we spent a long weekend with Selene and the rest of Tyrus’ family on Mfangano, visiting their modest boma (compound) and the steep, rocky field where they grow corn and beans on depleted soil. On our first day, Selene shared her feelings about Tyrus being away and sacrificing his education for his family.
In this roughcut scene I shot, edited and co-produced, Selene cooks lunch with items purchased with Tyrus’ remittances as she shares the hardship of living on an island with limited job opportunities. As fish fries over a fire outside her doorstep, she shares her fears and hopes for Tyrus, and displays the love and gratitude she feels for her son’s sacrifices in the name of the family.