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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Obel

Joseph obel | Mto na mtindo (the river and the flow)

Updated: May 31, 2023

About the Project

I am interested in exploring the conversation about the intersection of violence against queer individuals and the violence against rivers as the sources of water. In my country Kenya, I have witnessed many deaths of members of the LGBTQ+ community, some of whom have died out of outright physical violence due to homophobia due to hate spread by the media, politicians, and the so-called religion and morality watchdogs.

I have also witnessed Mto, the once fresh, nourishing river

being choked to death by plastic waste, pesticides, and other chemicals from homes and factories. I live next to Mto River which was colorless but is now as dark as charcoal, its waters reducing in quantity daily. Though threatened, the once-fresh Mto River is still resilient as she meanders day and night.

As a queer person living in a homophobic country and environment, resilience is what keeps me going, despite the threat to my life and socio-economic well-being. My project is called Mto (The River) and compares resilience in a river threatened with extinction, and a human body threatened with death for being different.

Description of the sound installation/soundscapes

Mto is the sound of the dying river that snakes its way every morning I wake up to go say hi to her. I constantly fear for her life, fearing that she is soon going to be extinct. Despite my fears, Mto still manages to give life to the birds, trees, worms, mollusks, and other insects by nourishing them in her unique ways, Mto has attempted to purify herself many times, but she hasn’t managed so far, because humans have maintained th

e constant supply of toxins to Mto's body and the toxin quantity increases every day, leaving the once beautiful, pure Mto, dark and stinky. Even her confidence is gone, because every time I go near her, I can only pretend to breathe normally for so long but I always sneak my mask and wear it when I cannot take Mto stench, all the time if not most.

I will combine Mto’s sounds with voices in my head and the ones I hear people say, whisper or shout toward me for being different.


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