No streets, no electricity, no water or sewers, just 700,000 people crammed together on a site the size of Central Park.
When elections set Kenya aflame in early 2008, some of the worst violence happened in Kibera, and other Nairobi slums. They're one of the few places where all 40-some tribes live side by side.
In fury over the elections, enraged about old inter-tribal grievances, people lashed out at their neighbors: rape, murder, eviction, forced circumcision.
Amidst the mayhem, one artist started painting signs of peace across Kibera. I found Solo 7 walking with the last of his paint in hand...
I started painting those peace messages after I heard in the newspaper that there were three days of mass action [called by party leaders to protest the election results].
I’m an artist. I decided to demonstrate in this way. I’ve been painting some message of peace, trying to calm the violence. I write “Peace Wanted Alive”, “Keep Peace”, “Keep Peace Fellow Kenyans”, “Keep Peace for All”, “Keep Peace and Justice”, “Keep Peace Wherever”, “Peace Forever.”
I've painted [the Kibera villages of] Jamhuri, Ayani Estate, Fort Jesus, Adams Arcade, Nakumatt and Ngong area, to the Cabernet Road. There are some people urging me to paint in their areas, that I've never reached. They're really encouraging me to do it and I'm really happy because some of them are happy with my job.
This is the last paint that I have... my own paint to work for this year as an artist. I saw that there was no way a job was going to be there without peace. So I decided to use the little paint I had in order to portray peace, to calm the situation.
If you see evil, you expect to get evil. If you see peace, you expect to get it ahead of you.
Over the past month we've been having some killings, lootings and displacement. I would like our leaders to teach our fellow Kenyans how to demonstrate in public. In public, you find that people have different reasoning capacities. If you say something like “mass action in public”, the fools will rule. So we must have a reasonable way of demonstrating in public.
I was thinking about the people who are sick in their houses. We have some old men and women sick in their houses. We have pregnant mothers in their house, under labor pains. If suddenly, a house will be set on fire, who will rescue that sick man? Who will rescue that old man or that woman in labor pains? I wanted people at least to keep peace, to demonstrate peacefully.
Signs speak louder than our voices in public. When they see peace, he'll not tell another person, “Oh, I’ve seen their peace.” He'll just pronounce, “Oh, peace.” With the person next to him, he'll try to restore peace.
There is no other Kenya beside this. There is no other Kenyan citizen beside you and I. Kenya is our gift from God and we should preserve it. Let us break our boundaries of tribalism. Let us save Kenya as one country.