Travels with my Art

Paintings and Photographs inspired by Travels Around the World

Photographing the streets of Nairobi

Nairobi Road Sign

Nairobi Road SIgn

Nairobi is one of those places which seems to have had everything turned up to 11. Its noise, colour, heat, traffic, population, pollution, smells, security, crime, wealth and poverty are an assault on the senses.

Home to three and a half million residents, or six and a half million if you include the suburbs, the Kenyan capital is the manufacturing, industrial, and financial hub of East and Central Africa.

But the Nairobi’s commercial success is juxtaposed with its poverty. According to a 2014 World Policy report 60 percent of its residents live in slums. In fact the urban slums of Kibera are the largest in Africa with an estimated population of about two million.

It comes as no shock that Nairobi crime levels are high – with  regular robberies, burglaries, carjacks, and street crime. In spite of this the positive energy of this city prevails and the smiles people give you as you walk along the street are some of the warmest I have ever had.

Here is a collection of some of my favourite street photographs taken over the last 12 months, while I have been living.

The buses and matatus, with their gaudy hand painted murals from the world of film, music and football, are a colourful but dangerous addition to the streets.  As you are cut up for the tenth time that day by one of the matatu drivers, the religious slogans which are often written on the back, will either make you scream or laugh.

I think these lines from the poem “Slum Drummers, Nairobi” by the Armenian American poet, writer and academic Peter Balakian, are really evocative of this huge energetic city.
“I keep following you, daughter of scrutiny, into plastic fields of carrion 
between sight and site, vision not visionary, pig guts on the grill,
trying to keep balance
between streams of sewage and the sky,
as you keep hacking, Sophia, at the de-centered,
the burning text, anthropology’s shakedown.
A marabou just knifed the arm of a woman picking
bottles out of plastic bags.
A rooster crows from under a pile
of galvanized tin as if it were morning on a farm” 
Kenya sign on an underpass in Nairobi

Kenya sign on an underpass in Nairobi

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  1. Marysia @ My Travel Affairs September 15, 2018

    I love those kind of photos, real life photos! Would love to visit!

  2. Ruth Holt September 15, 2018

    Love these photos, especially the washing on the balconies and the ghostbusters bus!

  3. My Ticklefeet September 15, 2018

    I recently visited Nairobi a few months back and I was amazed by the amount of people they could fit in that Matatu!! really Nairobi is such a blend of a city. Great capture of the soul of this city in your photos 🙂

  4. Christine September 16, 2018

    Great photos, these are so eye opening to a part of the world we rarely see people traveling to.

  5. josypheen September 16, 2018

    I did really love Nairobi for the reasons you described (the noise, the giggles etc.) I think the think I loved best is those amazing purple flowered trees. 🙂

    Your photos really remind me of our time there. 😀

    • alidunnell September 16, 2018 — Post Author

      Thanks for commenting – I wanted to capture that busy feeling you get when you walk or travel around Nairobi – I’m glad my photos brought back some good memories 🙂

  6. koreacareer September 16, 2018

    Alan and I had a super time walking and photographing Nairobi. Such a bustling place.

  7. thewonderer86 September 17, 2018

    I love your opening sentence. That’s how I feel about India!

  8. Frans December 9, 2020

    Great shots! Love your images. They are based on reality.

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