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  • Writer's pictureASFA

The Role Of Myth In Shaping Rites Of Passage Among The Youth In Urban Centers In Kenya

One of the disadvantages of the process of rapid urbanization in a post-colonial state, which is yet to resolve its identity crises, is the gradual heightening of insecurity among its economically segregated people. From this process emerges the allure of a criminal underworld that attracts the most alienated and vulnerable minds within this society. Over time, these minds gravitate towards each other forming smaller organized societies held together by elaborate rites of passage. Glorified adventures and glamorous lifestyles of famed gangsters, who are considered legends in the streets of Nairobi, provide an archetypal narrative that justifies violence, creating a destructive portal that stirs up the collective rage repressed within marginalized communities in the city.

With diminishing access to the values of indigenous rituals in defining the psycho-spiritual progress of the youth in Kenya, these gangs are improvising new myths adapted from global media war narratives, to organize rituals that respond to their state of isolation and victimization.

Some of these rituals include gang initiations which coincide with sudden spike in crime in neighbourhoods within the city, ranging from burglaries, muggings, to carjackings. Only those who conduct these rituals successfully can attain the privilege of identifying with the gang. This has developed into the longstanding pattern of extra judicial killings and excessive force applied by the police on youth living in low income neighbourhoods in Nairobi. Operations to crack down these gangs has only escalated the violence, resulting in the loss of countless innocent lives.

A few of those gang members who have successfully broken out of this violent cycle are turning back to their communities, in a bid to restore and inspire the next generation away from this destructive allure. WAYABA Family is one of the few youth group initiatives directly invested in establishing a pro-social attitude within their own community in Ziwani estate. By weaving together a sporting ethos with performance Arts, the group is revising old gang narratives to illuminate different pathways to self realization and fulfillment.

With the intention of making a tangible difference, the group launched a football club where they organize annual soccer tournaments for the youth; sponsored by well wishers and entrepreneurs from within their own community. Their rising fame in Ziwani estate is enabling them to build a database of talented youngsters, in order to foster more fellowship and mentorship programs for the next generation. This reconciliatory effort is reviving a lost pride within this community, giving rise to an environment where young talented minds can begin to imagine better worlds for themselves, gain the skill set to work towards realizing their dreams, and thrive.


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