Apathy; a feeling of disinterest, of not being interested in something.
Apathy; what I felt (or didn’t feel) toward human trafficking until my HAART experience.

‘The good inside of all of us is wrapped in a layer of apathy, and we forget how much potential we have within us, in each and every one of us, to change the world for the better for ourselves and our children, and thus to bring about oneness.’
~Shari Arison

I learned about the HAART A2ES exhibition last year (2016) via social media; more specifically, from one of my friend’s (the very talented Rehema Baya’s) social media pages’. The images of the photographs she put up were the entries she submitted for the HAART A2ES 2016 exhibition. I absentmindedly clicked on these images (they were two) for a better view. Staring at my screen looking at them, my mind registered suffering, oppression, helplessness. I was sad for a minute, and the next I admired her mastery of the camera, and the next I pressed the ‘back’ button. That was it. My thoughts then went on to more ‘important’ things like Nairobi traffic, cars growing on roads, and that deadline I had coming up. Why? Well, I could drum up some amazingly believable PR explanation on how I didn’t inquire further because A or B, heck even C and D; or I could tell you the stark truth. I didn’t care because it didn’t affect me. The end.

Then as if by fate, sometime in April this year, my mom stumbled into my room to show me a video. I thought it would be the funny kind, the kind you forward to anyone and everyone who would care to waste bundles on, so I happily took her phone. But I wasn’t prepared to watch those next 40 seconds.

It was a video of a young girl, barely sixteen, she looked South American. She was barely clothed in very revealing clad, visibly cold, seated on dusty earth and surrounded by four or five men. Her hands were tied behind her back. The person holding the camera was also a man. He spoke in a language I didn’t understand, but from his tone, I knew he spoke nothing good. The men laughed at her, they jeered, and suddenly, out of nowhere, one begun to hit her head repeatedly with an object, sending this girl into convulsions as they watched and laughed.

I don’t mean to be graphic, but again, I do, because censoring it to make you comfortable would be to enable your apathy, your disinterest. When I got the call for Artists to participate in this year’s HAART A2ES exhibition (via text), I hesitated. Surely, what did I know about Human Trafficking? How would I translate what I didn’t know into a piece of work? Why should I put in effort in trying to understand something that didn’t directly affect me? But going back to that video, and what I saw, it only seemed fair to at least try and research about the trafficking situation here.

Feeling thoroughly unsure of myself, the first thing I typed in the Search Bar was ‘human trafficking in Kenya’. The first result that came up was a report of children in refugee camps in Kenya being sold as slaves for sex and labour. This was according to information gathered by a US Department of State Report. The second result that popped up was HAART and its efforts to create awareness and act on human trafficking in Kenya.

Gaining momentum, the second thing I typed in was: ‘Stories of survivors of human trafficking’. Again, HAART came up: articles of stories written by Phyllis Mburu and Sophie Otiende.

From these searches and from what I read, it seemed to me that little knowledge seemed to be out there on the government’s dealing with trafficking in Kenya. From troops being deployed to refugee camps rampant with trafficking without any anti-trafficking training to articles reporting the government distancing itself from Kenyans languishing in Saudi Arabian jails in 2015, saying they had only themselves to blame. So the last thing I typed in was ‘Laws on Human Trafficking in Kenya’. Who has the power to stop it, why aren’t they doing anything?

But the laws criminalizing trafficking are there, in theory.

And I sort of got to see why HAART begun this initiative, like it was fuelled by the sentiment: “If no one will speak, WE will.” This was how I came to realize that waiting for the government to take an actual stance, a formidable one, minus the hogwash that is ‘diplomatic relations with fellow states’ would be as good as chancing on talking squid. Let’s be honest, this is the very same government that as recently as this year viewed the amnesty being granted to Kenyans ‘illegally’ in (read trafficked into) Saudi as an olive Branch being extended by Saudi Arabian Government. As if these Kenyans chose the unfortunate circumstances they found themselves in. The irony is tangible.

Because of this, I thought I’d take a chance on fate and participate in the 2017 Edition of HAART’s A2ES exhibition.

Taking part in it this year, seeing the works submitted by fellow artists gave me a sense of hope, that artists were making a conscious decision to understand the intricacies of trafficking; that they interpreted the topic, shared it amongst themselves, discussed it, and interpreted it how best they could.

For this awareness, I laud the HAART foundation, simply because through these exhibitions year after year, the world now has 30 or more less disinterested people, lessened apathy. From the organizers, to the participants, to those who will view the works presented, awareness will have been furthered and the conversation will gain momentum.


Less Apathetic Human.

By Immaculate Juma