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The Criminal Gang Syndicate, Gendered Nuances & Violence.

Body Maps as tool for research and intervention



This project, led by Dr Fathima Azmyia Badurdeen, used visual arts as a way to research and communicate individual involvements in organized criminal gangs in Mombasa.

The interviews below emerge from a three day residential workshop conducted in August 2021 at the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM)


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Mombasa has been grappling with the gang syndicate for many years. Simultaneously, the increase in the number of gangs in Mombasa and the intense police crackdowns has heightened attention on this phenomenon in relation to political violence, mainly with regard to the upcoming elections in 2022 and other gang-crime-terror nexuses. The workshop brought together reformed gang members, gang members who were in the process of reforming, local artists from Mombasa and university students from the BA in Conflict and Security Studies programme from TUM, in an exploratory journey into the lives of gang members using body maps as a visual art technique.


The research provided opportunities for local artists engaged in community development initiatives in marginalized localities to gain experience on the use of body maps as a tool for research and intervention among hard-to-reach individual samples. Similarly, two early-career postgraduate students participated in the workshop, where they learned the skills of body maps.

The research also benefited from the expertise of NGOs and practitioners working on reforming gang members such as Mr. Nicholas Songora from Manyatta Youth Entertainment and Ms. Shamsa Abubakar, Chair – Peace Committee, Mombasa among other local area chiefs who attended the workshop. 

The workshop aimed to use body maps to understand individual pathways into gangs; identify meaning making of their life events in individual pathways into gangs; understand gendered nuances in gang formation and organization; develop skills in the use of body maps as a research and intervention tool.


Other objectives:

1. To build capacity of local artists in learning the art of using body maps as a tool for research and intervention.

2. To build capacity of university students to learn the use of visual arts such as body maps for their future research and project activities.

3. To build capacity of CSO members in the use of body maps as a tool for research and intervention.

4. To allow participants to network with organizations that are using art work in their interventions.

The researcher acknowledges the support of the Partnership, Research and Innovation Team of TUM for their support for the research.

The research team acknowledges the support of the Partnership, Research and Innovation Team at TUM.

Project Team:

Project lead: Dr. Fathima Azmiya Badurdeen

Artist: Ms. Muslima Essak

Research Assistant: Ms. Mariam Zahur

Volunteers: Breda Wanjiku, Dennis Kuria, Shinali Kevin, Morgan Manya, Ummukulthum Mohamed Ahamed

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