Air pollution is a global health concern. As well as reducing life expectancy, it lowers quality of life through respiratory and cardiovascular diseases often leading to a reduction in people’s resilience and productivity. In Kenya, levels of air pollution are particularly high in informal settlements, both outdoors and indoors. Settlements are often located near to industrial areas, busy roads, and sites of litter burning. Indoor air pollution is the result of cooking, lighting and heating with low-quality fuels in badly ventilated huts. Attempts to improve air pollution and reduce exposure have been introduced in Nairobi’s informal settlements in recent years. However, significant positive effects on people’s health have not yet been reported.
The AIR (Action for Interdisciplinary Air Pollution Research) Network www.airnetworkafrica.com has explored new approaches to tackle air quality. The network comprises African and EU partners from a wide range of disciplines, and community participants who are residents of Mukuru, Nairobi. The long-term goal is the co-creation of innovative, participatory solutions to air pollution and its effects on human health in low-resource settings in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The AIR Network developed a mixture of creative methods to discuss, explore and engage with the issue of air pollution, including theatre, visual arts, games, story-telling and music. This exhibition charts the network’s development and successes, and showcases outputs which were generated through the network’s activities. Comprising 15 panels, participatory mapping artefacts, digital stories, and music composed and recorded especially for the network, the exhibition introduces the rationale behind the project, the problems to be addressed and how interdisciplinary working was discussed, planned and actioned. The panels feature reproductions of comics, posters, community art and photographs created by the network. The photographs document the pollution challenges faced by the residents of Mukuru and are backed by striking testimonies from people who live and work in the community, gathered as part of project interviews. Other panels document the use of legislative theatre (a form of improvisation theatre, where an audience of policy-makers are invited into the play to help to “solve” a problem, and the actors in the play demonstrate the difficulty in finding an easy answer) and participatory mapping (used to identify pollution hotspots). Four digital stories were filmed and directed by community members to document local experiences of air pollution, and AIR Network activities. Music was identified as an effective communication tool, and songs and videos were composed and recorded in order to raise awareness locally and globally. Some of the digital outputs have been formatted in 360 and can be viewed using 3D headsets.