Demolition in Kongowea

The Paintings Kongowea

Kongowea is a working class settlement just north of Mombasa across the Nyali Bridge. In the 1960s Mr Patel, the owner of a group of six Swahili houses in Kongowea returned to India; and before he left he bequeathed this property to his loyal worker of many years. Unfortunately he did not provide any paperwork. Many years later a lawyer contacted the worker and offered to make him a title deed for the property; in no time the plot and houses were transferred to a developer who sent a bull-dozer and demolished the houses.

I worked with Lucy, a Taita woman who for a whole year continued to stay with her children in her windowless, half roofed broken house while sympathisers went to court for justice on her behalf. Needless to say this was not forthcoming.

Demolition in Kongowea (1983) compares the living conditions of working class Kenyans and the foreign expatriates who ‘rule’ the country. Kongowea neighbours the wealthy Nyali Estate, the congested housing of the one versus the expansive garden across the wall, the debes (jars) of water and the swimming pool, the insecurity and tension in one versus the relaxed leisure of a man reading his newspaper. A judge and the chief give their rulings with their backs turned to the actual reality and the situation is encompassed by the Imperialist colours of the tractor and umbrella.

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