Jane Mwikali died last week and it did not make the news. Probably not Covid related but certainly Kibera related, Jane’s demise was a bit premature. Jane ran a barely recognisable retail kiosk on questionable economics, with eclectic unreliable stock and a wafer-thin footfall. ‘I’ll get your change later’ was always followed by an infectious grin; Jane’s heart had an economy of its own.
Walking past her kiosk without experiencing Jane’s love was not possible. Greetings were long, heartfelt and usually physical. Genuine to the core, she could brighten the darkest of days, giving hope where there was little and joy to the hardest of hearts. Jane became our Kibera Mum and changed our lives.
In the current rush of regret and introspection the understandable focus on colour deflects attention from the economic apartheid that maintains Nairobi’s wealth. Kibera’s residents are treated with an appalling disdain by some. Summary killings and police shootings rarely make the media. Discrimination and prejudice spike hope and grind change to asthmatic levels on an already near-vertical playing field. People crossroads and move tables rather than mix with slum dwellers whilst a language of patronage and subversion slow-chokes aspiration and hope and Kibera just can’t breathe.
But Slum lives matter.