Condé Nast College student, Beatrice Boseley interviews classmate, Bali Shah who is currently campaigning and photo-documenting her work for charity, Mama To The Rescue in her home country of Kenya.
Hidden away in our homes, far from our natural routines and responsibilities, we wait patiently for the return of normalcy. Or rather not so patiently sometimes, as is the case for Bali Shah. As a Condé Nast College BA student, Bali has been actively cultivating her artistic talents as well as her community throughout lockdown. Campaigning, photographing, and being one of the many charitable hands involved in the Mama To The Rescue initiative in Nairobi, Kenya. She goes on to explain, “It’s a charity program spearheaded by a leading business in the Hospitality Industry, endorsed by the Tourism Minister to support the most vulnerable from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Raising awareness for a good cause
Having lived in Kenya for the first 18 years of her life, Bali notes the emotional connection she shares with her home. Observing the joy she’s found in telling the stories of those she photographs, “Photography is my passion. I’m using my interest to narrate a story. Despite the uncertainty that has been raised due to the Pandemic, I am using my art to document a silver lining.” She continues, “Actually, documenting history through my lens and hopefully capturing the intensity of this unprecedented times.”
In conversation with Bali, her passion for the cause is vivid. Even prior to the pandemic, millions of Kenyans lived in uncertainty about their next meal, making the presence of a global pandemic ever more bleak. There are approximately 2.5 million people living in Nairobi’s slums, accounting for 60% of its population. With this in mind, Bali attentively mentions the vulnerability of the country’s infrastructure at this time, “The country cannot afford a complete lockdown as the economy is already suffering. Unlike other countries in the world, our health care system is overwhelmed. However, today, the Director General in the Ministry of health is Kenya expressed optimism with the measures the government has put in place saying they have been key in suppressing the spread of the virus.” It also transpires that the Kenyan government has been praised on its efforts to contain the virus whilst also providing aid to communities most in need. Fortunately, optimistic and resourceful thinking combined efforts and The Mama To The Rescue team noticed an opportunity to employ the out-of-work restaurant workers to aid in an effort to provide valuable meals to front line heroes and vulnerable neighbours. So, just as quickly as “Restaurants were shut down by the government, they were revived by the government through The Mama To The Rescue Program to serve the people in their hour of greatest need.”
The Power of Documentary Photography
The charm of the program is in its simplicity, as is Bali’s photography where she captures Kenya’s bright colours and generous souls at a time when we’re all in need of their beauty. Bali muses over her artistic outlet, “I enjoy taking photographs. It increases my imagination. Though my lens I’m able to look at things through different perspectives. I like to capture the character of the people I photograph. I capture moments that I find beautiful which deserve to be documented.”
Bali then contemplates the tireless efforts of the Mama To The Rescue team. The potency of their positive cause is an “experience [which] has forced me to learn how to adapt to situations. The location that I am photographing is [a] basic setup with ordinary people. The challenge is capturing the raw emotions and the activities of these people in an artistic way. There is no special lighting, nor preproduction involved, therefore I have to capture the activities at that moment. It’s all about the expressions, their attitude without making people feel self-conscious about the shoot.”
Donate to Mama To The Rescue
Mama to the Rescue will continue helping the vulnerable people for as long as required and the founders are putting all efforts on finding new ways to receive donations in kind or goods, so a plate of food is a plate of hope: a message from the community that someone, somewhere cares.
By Beatrice Bosely, first-year BA (Hons) Fashion Communication