The Bike Gang
Exhibition project by Sam Hopkins and John Kamicha in cooperation with researcher Florian Stoll.
The growth and expansion of Nairobi, economically, infrastructurally and culturally, has over the past few years been a subject of significant academic and media attention. One expression, and perhaps consequence, of this growth is an emerging bicycle subculture. A group of cyclists, many of whom are also artists, are building a bike scene, with a distinct set of cultures, practices and languages. Although some of the signs and symbols of this subculture are perhaps familiar to an international audience, the way they are performed in Nairobi is radically different.
Cycling in Nairobi can be dangerous and involves dodging corrupt police, traffic and thieves, generally in that order. The cyclists themselves are maverick and some almost outlaws, but largely they are middle class. This seeming contradiction is vividly expressed in the bike scene. For example groups of cyclists go on weekend bike tours, a perhaps almost conservative, European tradition. But the way this is enacted in Kenya seems more hedonistic than conservative, a kind bicycle-binge of drugs, alcohol, meat, and sleeping rough at the end of the night.
Why do these young men chose to eschew the traditional middle class values of buying a car, a house and living a safe life? Why do they identify so strongly with a subculture developed around a bike? How does the bike identity relate to other identities, such as ethnicities and gender roles? The Bike Gang is a collectively made experimental film, involving one group of bikers as chroniclers and re-enacters of their everyday life, dreams and hallucinations.