When we usually picture the problems posed by air pollution, we might tend to think of industrial smokestacks and vehicle emissions. These are certainly some of the most the dominant images that appear in news stories on the topic. They help to provide striking, memorable and recognisable representations of an issue which, in other ways, can impact in ways which are all but invisible to the naked eye. However, could departing from these conventional images help to raise awareness and provoke discussion about the different sources of, and effects of, air pollution, both indoors and outdoors?

Since 2017, the AIR Network has brought together researchers and people who live and work in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss air quality issues, raise awareness and explore new approaches to tackle air quality. The network has used a mixture of methods to discuss, explore and engage with the issue of air pollution, including theatre, visual arts, games, story-telling and music.

All of these activities have generated an incredible amount of visual material on the subject including photography, comics, community art, mapping and music videos. From an early stage we wanted to mount a project exhibition to showcase these diverse and engaging works, but a subsequent challenge has been how to distil this massive amount of material to a relatively short number of representative images. For many months we considered how to use these to tell the most effective story, about the overarching issue, the individuals encountering air quality problems on a day to day basis, and the work done as part of the mini-projects (https://airnetworkafrica.com/2018/03/12/mini-projects/) which have been the core of the Network’s day to day work.

Our exhibition is now ready, and through it we tell the story of the project, its initial aims, how it developed as a result of our project inception meeting in Mukuru, and the results and outputs. For instance, the exhibition showcases the story of the evolution of our wonderful network logo; photographs which document the legislative theatre performances, and a selection of the locally-produced maps created to help identify ‘hotspots’ of pollution. As part of this installation, we will also be playing videos of the digital stories created for the Network as well as the Mukuru Kings music video. Each gives a very different presentation of air pollution, as well as ways to try to solve the issues affecting the local community.

The exhibition will run in the Ron Cooke hub (University of York) from 4th – 7th March and will be available to view between 10am and 4pm on those days. See https://www.york.ac.uk/sei/news-and-events/events/2019-events/airpollutioninnairobiexhibition/ for full details.

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