Nairobi, Kenya


Photographer: Kelly Johnson

Year of Submission: 2016 (Educators Edition) 

Rona is team leader of Nairobi Remand and Allocation Prison’s Kanga Afrika dance crew. In his late 20s, he has been awaiting trial for more than four years. His crew dance like contenders on Sakata, a Kenyan television talent show. Watching them, it is hard to see them as prisoners, or the hall they practice in as a prison. Rona holds out his hand to show a wound. “I got this today while performing. You see? We believe in no pain, no gain. We have to keep working harder to achieve what we want to.” Kenya’s prison system is under-resourced and over-crowded. Detainees can wait up to eighteen years before being tried. Before his arrest, Rona was a member of a Nairobi-based dance group that had had some success, making music videos and TV appearances. In prison, he helps others find purpose and joy, despite the chaos and uncertainty of the environment in which they live.