The 2021 Night of Ideas is an annual event that takes place around the world and organized by the Institut Français i.e the French agency for International Cultural Cooperation, which aims to celebrate the diversity of ideas, knowledge, creativity, art, and cultural trends portrayed by society.
The Alliance Française de Nairobi chose to highlight the historic and dynamic area of Eastlands through an exhibition titled Made in Eastlando, an area mostly labeled as a ghetto full of crime and overcrowded housing estates but unknown to everyone else is the home to some of the greatest talent to have ever come out of the huge vast area which stretches from City Stadium Roundabout along Jogoo Road all the way to Ruai.
One factor that stands out about Eastlands is the Matatu Culture known as Nganya, from matatus which operate the Kayole, Umoja, Buruburu among other estates.
Its also the birthplace of Sheng, the urban language which unites many of the multicultural and multilingual communities that reside within the area.
A ten-minute documentary titled Made in Eastlando just like the exhibition featuring John Sibi-Okumu interviewing the former Mayor of Nairobi, Joe Aketch, Molly Ayeko a hairdresser, and Poet Teardrops who all spoke about life and growing up in the vast Eastlands area.
The documentary gives one an outlook of Eastlando life across several decades through the eyes and memories of those who grew up in the area. The densely populated area still remains to date a flourishing centre for informal trade and services with exceptional entrepreneurial skills as these traders and various service providers occupying spaces in unique creative ways as they sell their wares in their own estate dialect.
This documentary was screened worldwide on Thursday 28th January during the 24H Live Night of Ideas event. Alongside the documentary, Alliance Française also invited artists Kevo Abbra and Teardrops, to recreate a small slice of Eastlands at the Alliance Française. “Tunatoa mtaa tunaileta CBD (we are bring eastlands to the city), we hope you get inspired from our journey, this is what we have been raised though and we just wanted to express our creativity and share our memories,” said kevoh during the opening night.
Kevo Abbra created the daily hustle through stalls known as Kibandas including barber shops, salons, Movie Theater, a shoe shiner stall and various forms of commerce and social gatherings from the informal areas. Teardrops used rhymes and poetry on the walls of the kibandas to convey the never say die spirit of Eastlando.
During the opening of the exhibition on 29th January, fashion designers styled and dressed by Kevo Abbra and a number of performing artists from Eastlands led by Teardrops entertained the crowd as they enjoyed some sweet juices of sugarcane being dished out by the msee wa miwa.
The exhibition which runs until 21st February will also be the venue for a dance performance by Jua Kali who grew up in California Estate and Jared Onyango on Friday 12th February and a poetry/spokenword afternoon sessuion titled Love Made in Eastlando by Teardrops and Mandela for Valentine’s Day on Sunday, 14th February.