The Biker Sisterhood
The motorbike or ‘Boda boda’ is one of the most convenient modes of transport in Kenya. The rise in popularity for women riding motorcycles in Nairobi is challenging gender stereotypes, religion and customary beliefs for the last several years.
Members of Inked Sisterhood: a community of women who ride and own motorbikes attribute this emerging trend was purely out of necessity rather than making a political statement. The group is breaking barriers while promoting good riding culture in the country’s bike community.
DIRECTOR Q&A and STATEMENT
DIRECTOR: BOB NYANJA
What attracted you to the story of your film?
The idea I had before discovering this story is the typical image of bikers as rubble rousing, tattoo covered, loud and obnoxious guys, that you typically see in movies or on western documentaries. These are mostly white bearded Caucasian males. Flip this picture into Africa, and I had expected a similar version, but boy was I wrong. First shock, they are females. Secondly, they as black as I am, and thirdly, they are mainstream professional people, including lawyers, pilots, mechanics, tech geeks and entrepreneurs. Alas! There was even a former judge amongst them. What they share in common with their international counterparts, I figure is their passion for the two wheeled machine and speed and the camaraderie they get from hanging out with each other.
Did you make any unexpected discoveries while shooting?
The Biker Sisterhood, has been a pleasure of discovery for me as a story teller. That ladies ride motorbikes is not unique or special. After all in my culture women ride bicycles to the market on a regular and rather common basis. But these ladies’ passion for the two wheels is so strong that they use the same bond to go beyond just the fun, speed and visibility. They use the biking and numbers they have to impact society in such amazing positive ways.
Each of these ladies was special, but four of them stood out for me.
Mina Reeves, learned biking in 2018, and within four months, she was ready to race. Its like she was itching to get on the race track. If you are used to watching formulae one and holding your breath, imagine a young lady with less than three months of learning how to ride a motor bike, already swinging and swerving and cutting corners in a race track, and in the most amazing situations, even winning!!. She is a bundle of energetic natural talent. And she tops it up with a rigorous gym routine and football with boys. But, she is also an educator, an avid science reader and teacher.
Swinging on the other side of the biking spectrum , are Michele and Wamuyu
Michele, walked away from practicing law, to entrepreneurship. On the other hand, Wamuyu decided she was going to use her bike to travel around world and tell, the Kenyan story. By the time COVID-19 hit in early 2020 and sadly she had to come home she, had been to several countries in Africa and ten others in South America including the Arctic Circle. All along carrying her Kenyan flag and sharing the Kenyan story.
Together with her friend Michele they carry on a message of safety in motor bike riding. A big challenge in African countries where motorbikes have become a necessity for travel and for which millions of unemployed young people have dipped into for employment. The sight of these two ladies surrounded by rough and mean looking “commercial riders” or “boda boda” guys as they are known in Kenya, taking safety lessons from these two mothers is just amazing to behold. Wamuyu has branched into vlogging and is now popularly known as “Mama Nduthi” slang for motorbike.
Beatrice or ‘Tris’ our fourth of these extraordinary riders is totally amazing. She is the quintessential entrepreneur. Started as a lady attendant at motorbike repair shop, being harassed by rowdy men, she quickly learned about bikes to the point that she outclassed her male colleagues with her knowledge. She enjoyed it so much that she quit university and started her own motorcycle sales shop. She soon discovered that being locked into other brands was limiting, she set off to China and just decided to create her own brand. ‘Tris Bikes’ that are loaded with interesting and necessary practical features.
This story is a lot deeper, than I could ever describe here. But the pleasure for me was to meet these amazing, powerful women and got to hear their stories and to see that each one of them going beyond just themselves, using their passion to touch and effect society in the most amazing and powerful ways. Hongera!, well done ladies. Keep riding. Keep touching and changing our society.