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Turisti negli Slum – Slum Turism

The website of the newspaper New Yourk Times on August 9 published an article by Kennedy Odede. I reproduce below, you can find it at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/10/opinion/10odede.html?_r=1

I met Kennedy about three years ago, shortly before he was offered a scholarship to study in America, where he is now. He is a brilliant young man with a passion for justice and for the inhabitants of Kibera, where he was born. The theme of his editorial came to the fore in recent years, and I remember that last year I was interviewed by a radio station in America on the same subject, in the context of a debate. More recently, some friends challenged me with questions in the same topic. After reading what Kennedy says is difficult to add something, but I’d love to hear your opinion, especially from those who may have visited Kibera accompanied by Bonny, or Jack, and the boys Mdugu Mdogo.

Slumdog Tourism
by Kennedy Odede
Slum tourism has a long history — during the late 1800s, lines of wealthy New Yorkers snaked along the Bowery and through the Lower East Side to see “how the other half lives.”
But with urban populations in the developing world expanding rapidly, the opportunity and demand to observe poverty firsthand have never been greater. The hot spots are Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai — thanks to “Slumdog Millionaire,” the film that started a thousand tours — and my home, Kibera, a Nairobi slum that is perhaps the largest in Africa.
Slum tourism has its advocates, who say it promotes social awareness. And it’s good money, which helps the local economy.
But it’s not worth it. Slum tourism turns poverty into entertainment, something that can be momentarily experienced and then escaped from. People think they’ve really “seen” something — and then go back to their lives and leave me, my family and my community right where we were before.
I was 16 when I first saw a slum tour. I was outside my 100-square-foot house washing dishes, looking at the utensils with longing because I hadn’t eaten in two days. Suddenly a white woman was taking my picture. I felt like a tiger in a cage. Before I could say anything, she had moved on.
When I was 18, I founded an organization that provides education, health and economic services for Kibera residents. A documentary filmmaker from Greece was interviewing me about my work. As we made our way through the streets, we passed an old man defecating in public. The woman took out her video camera and said to her assistant, “Oh, look at that.”
For a moment I saw my home through her eyes: feces, rats, starvation, houses so close together that no one can breathe. I realized I didn’t want her to see it, didn’t want to give her the opportunity to judge my community for its poverty — a condition that few tourists, no matter how well intentioned, could ever understand.
Other Kibera residents have taken a different path. A former schoolmate of mine started a tourism business. I once saw him take a group into the home of a young woman giving birth. They stood and watched as she screamed. Eventually the group continued on its tour, cameras loaded with images of a woman in pain. What did they learn? And did the woman gain anything from the experience?
To be fair, many foreigners come to the slums wanting to understand poverty, and they leave with what they believe is a better grasp of our desperately poor conditions. The expectation, among the visitors and the tour organizers, is that the experience may lead the tourists to action once they get home.
But it’s just as likely that a tour will come to nothing. After all, looking at conditions like those in Kibera is overwhelming, and I imagine many visitors think that merely bearing witness to such poverty is enough.
Nor do the visitors really interact with us. Aside from the occasional comment, there is no dialogue established, no conversation begun. Slum tourism is a one-way street: They get photos; we lose a piece of our dignity.
Slums will not go away because a few dozen Americans or Europeans spent a morning walking around them. There are solutions to our problems — but they won’t come about through tours.

Kennedy Odede, the executive director of Shining Hope for Communities, a social services organization, is a junior at Wesleyan University.
A version of this op-ed appeared in print on August 10, 2010, on page A25 of the New York edition.


  1. […] turismo della povertà Posted by: eradan in africa, nairobi ShareIL TURISMO DELLA POVERTÀ FA MALE ALLA MIA AFRICA di Kennedy […]

  2. Ivan Ricotti says:

    Quando nel 2007 venni per la prima volta a Nairobi, alla fine della mia collaborazione con Koinonia Technologies, ti chiesi di farmi visitare lo slum di Kibera.

    Onestamente so che il mio non fu turismo, ma distanza di qualche anno penso che non fu una buona idea e che Kennedy abbia pienamente ragione.

    Se mi guardo dentro credo di poter dire che non ho ancora tratto niente di veramente significativo da quelle immagini. Immagini che senza fatica, a distanza di 3 anni, riesco a tirare fuori dalle pieghe della memoria. Eppure sebbene siano ancora fresche non migliorano il mio rapporto con l’Africa.
    Lo fanno invece le persone che ho incontrato, le relazioni che sono nate, le storie che mi hai raccontato e i progetti ai quali, con gradualità, mi hai introdotto.

    Non siamo tutti uguali e non è possibile trovare una regola che valga per chiunque, però in quel che dice Kennedy c’è qualcosa di profondamente vero, una dignità che va rispettata ed un mistero verso il quale non ci si può accostare se non in punta di piedi e per piccoli passi.

    A presto e grazie di tutto quello che continui a condividere,

  3. Elisha Ratemo says:

    This is what we encounter in our daily living in Kibera. they come in all forms, soliciting for pictures of our misery, promise you better life there after but once gone they disappear never to be seen. our lives have become part of a tourism amusement with us the slum dwellers being the ‘wild game’ they track. i see images of my neighbourhood on the internet daily but little is done to my people to benefit from this trade. i have personally known Odede from high school days in Naivasha and what he narrates is truely what Kibera has been turned into by this Lords of the poor. my experience with them is same and i was left to wait for the day they promised to get back to me (soon), i kept the virgil for years only to realise it was not worth it. we beg to live but to them its a new world of opportunities…

  4. Sara Sola says:

    That’s right, nothing to add. I just got to know Karanja road because I went there everyday for 2 weeks. It was an incredible place and the thing I didn’t like is that a lot of people want to keep it that way because it makes money with that tourism this man talks about in the article. It’s a pity, people are giving more value to money than to Kibera’s inhabitants’ dignity…

  5. Beppe says:

    Sono passati 12 anni esatti dall’ultima volta (ed anche la prima, per la verità) che ho camminato per le strade di Kibera, Korogocho, Kawangware. Non avevo con me alcuna macchina fotografica e nessuna cinepresa, eppure i miei occhi di adolescente hanno catturato immagini, suoni e odori che resteranno indelebili.
    Ancora oggi mi capita di sentire per la strada alcuni odori che mi riportano d’improvviso a quelle latitudini. Mi è capitato persino di guardare un film (The costant gardener) e di riconoscere subito, da pochi fotogrammi, lo slum di Kibera, con i suoi caratteristici binari del treno che passano a pochi centimetri da migliaia di vite indaffarate a resistere.
    A volte provo a ripercorrere quelle strade mettendomi nei panni di chi vedeva passare. Qualcuno dei bambini trotterellava accanto ripetendo allo sfinimento “Mzungu auaiù”. Tra i più piccoli, sulle schiene delle madri (nella migliore delle ipotesi) o delle sorelle maggiori, non mancava chi si spaventasse alla vista di quegli strani esseri tanto pallidi.
    Cosa avranno pensato di me? certo mi scocciava essere giudicato solo per il fatto di essere bianco. Io, squattrinato liceale, mi sentivo un portafogli che camminava o un paio di scarpe di marca. Niente di più. Ma è un fastidio certamente più tollerabile di quello provato da Kennedy, inchiodato dalla povertà sua e della sua gente.
    Quello che dice è sacrosanto, insindacabile.
    Ma non riesco a dire di non essere tornato diverso da quel giro a Kibera. Cos’ho saputo fare, dopo, è un altro paio di maniche.
    Mai nessun racconto e nessun documentario sarebbero riusciti a farmi capire cos’è Kibera. Forse non l’ho capito fino in fondo nemmeno adesso, ma ho respirato la stessa aria di chi ci abita, ho calcato la stessa terra, ho riempito le mie narici degli stessi odori. Questo è un punto di partenza.

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