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Mother of the Motherless

Kenya | Social Justice

AN URGENT CALL FOR HELP broke off Stella Oigo's interview with Mama Kanini, the primary source in her newest short documentary about life on Nairobi's streets. 

Mama Kanini - the "Mother of the Motherless" - rushed away, with Stella hurrying after her, to attend to some boys found crying out in pain in the alleyway outside Kanini's house.  The boys had been brutally raped and abandoned in the street with their injuries.  One boy was so badly abused he could only move around by crawling on all fours.

"That day became very emotional for me.  Seeing those boys made me cry so much," Stella told TMP by email. "I helped her bring the boys back to the house to wait for an ambulance."

Once at the hospital, the doctors explained to Mama Kanini that the sexual assaults had significantly damaged the boys' bodies internally.   Just recounting that news on camera brought tears to Kanini's eyes, creating the short video's most touching moment.

Though Mama Kanini has been working in the streets of Nairobi for years, she still has a very soft heart for these orphaned children and their suffering.  And she exhausts herself in long days of feeding, bathing, clothing and caring for them. 

Stella has similar passions, and her journalistic work springs from her concern for Kenya's women and children.  Unfortunately, she doesn't have to look far for heartbreaking issues to highlight. 

"Every day, I pass by the streets and see children out there with no one to protect them. I find myself crying." Stella said.  "The (rapes of those boys) are still fresh in my mind, and will be for a long time."  

The idea for this story emerged from Stella's practice of feeding the needy children near her church. It was those children who first told her about Mama Kanini. 

At first Mama Kanini was hesitant about going on camera to talk with Stella about her work.  It took several visits to gain Kanini's trust. 

"She explained that many people have come to her and the children and lied, saying they will support them.  And they are never to be seen again," Stella remarked. 

"But since then, we have become good friends," Stella added. "And she has helped me a lot in my documentary making process."

Reflecting on her growth as filmmaker, Stella said that she is proud of the way this story came together, especially how naturally the emotions flowed on camera.  She believes that her ability to compose shots and her sense of story structure has improved greatly since she completed her Africa Film Project training in 2009, sponsored by The Media Project.  Her biggest technical challenge is mastering the editing process. 

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