Welcome to Dandora
Less than 20 kilometres from the heartbeat of Nairobi is a settlement that many living on the opposite side of Nairobi fear to visit. Famous for being the home of Nairobi’s main dumpsite, Dandora is also where enthusiasts believe Kenyan hip hop was born, bred and continues to thrive to this day.
Dandora was established with part funding from the World Bank in 1977 to offer a higher standard of living to people working in Nairobi. Forty years later, Dandora is a pale shadow of it’s glory days with unplanned developments and unmaintained infrastructure characterising this suburb in the heart of Embakasi.
One of my earliest references of Dandora came from Kalamashaka.
Maisha kule D ni ma-zii!!
That’s what stood out… Dandora the rough place where it wasn’t guaranteed you’d come out alive if you visited as an outsider. To get a glimpse of what Dandora is like since K-Shaka dropped that warning, I joined friends from Onetouch on a tour led by Ziki from Dandora Hip Hop City (DHC).
Our tour started at Ukoo Flani, where we met members of Wasafi Organisation.
As the name suggests, they engage in cleanups of their community.
Wasafi’s secretary Jackline Karimi told me they clean their neighbourhood twice a week to try and return Dandora to it’s glory days.
Growing up in Dandora, they recall how beautiful it used to be and with every stroke of the broom, they hope Dandora will one day shine again. By sweeping the streets and cleaning ditches, they also find something to keep them away from engaging in crime.
Unlike Kileleshwa, roads within Dandora are paved using concrete blocks!
The artery roads however are just like those in Kileleshwa.
Dennis Mwangi is in class 2 and would like to be a driver when he grows up. We met him on our way to Dandora Community Centre.
There, we found Emmanuel Omondi aka Stunya training at Ragos Gym.
The gym is run by 11-time Mr Kenya Body Building Champion, Mickey Ragos. At 70, he is building an unforgettable legacy right here in Dandora, helping train Kenya’s next champions.
After a quick lunch break, we headed to Dandora Uprising.
We met Peter Waithaka at the Dandora Uprising Library. The learning hub for residents of Dandora relies on book donations.
KGZ Heavyweight outside the Dandora Uprising cyber cafe.
Dandora Uprising Court.
A stall selling fruits and vegetables in Dandora Uprising.
At Dandora Hip Hop City, we found these two little children playing in a space provided for children to play in.
Paul Kidero shows the two children their portrait.
Our last stop for the day was the Dandora Dumpsite.
This is where Nairobi’s trash comes to rest.
Heaps have turned into mounds, and mounds into mountains of trash.
30 acres of my trash and your trash.
Around 2,000 tons of trash arrive here daily. That’s two million kilos of garbage. A day!
The trash is a source of livelihood for some people, and food for some goats.
That concluded our tour of Dandora.
I left Dandora happy that groups like Wasafi Organisation and DHC are using their talents and engaging others in their community to change the face of Dandora. And from my experience, instead of Maisha kule D ni ma-zii, I was bopping my head to…
Dandora L O V E ndani ya hip hop city!
Thank you Ziki for organising our tour and shifting our perceptions about Dandora.
You can listen to Ziki’s music on Soundcloud.
Walking with cameras dangling from our shoulders in Dandora wouldn’t have been possible if we didn’t have members of DHC walking with us.
Special shout out to Kigo…
…and to Harrison Ouma aka KGZ Heavyweight.
Here’s a video of our time in Dandora.