Creative photographer showcases the city of Nairobi as you’ve never seen it
Posted Friday, June 1 2012 at 22:30
You see them every day, gory pictures that depict Nairobi in the worst light possible.
The more you see them, the more you get the impression that there is nothing good about Nairobi, Kenya and Africa.
The only things frozen in time are images of malnourished children, slums, the dead or the dying, poor infrastructure and barefoot school children who could do with a good scrubbing from head to toe.
This is mostly a Western stereotype that has seeped into the minds of Kenyans who, either deliberately or not, motivated by donor money or a real cause to help save the city, only showcase Nairobi in bad light.
Yes, they are real images of the country, but there is more to the city than that.
One young Kenyan wants to change this image of Nairobi.
Armed with only a camera, Mutua Matheka is a man on a mission. Matheka, a 28-year-old photographer, says he is attracted to beautiful things.
He decided to go against the norm and take beautiful pictures of his city and was surprised when Kenyans and foreigners alike loved the pictures.
“You look at almost every other major city in the world and they have these amazing pictures, but we have nothing for Nairobi,” says Matheka.
“All we have are pictures that do not do the city any good and people, used to seeing them every day, start believing that that is all Nairobi has to offer.”
All it took for Matheka was a visit atop Nairobi’s landmark, the Kenyatta International Conference Centre, where he saw a different side of Nairobi that he wanted to capture for himself.
“I was still an amateur photographer then. I wasn’t on social media and did not even have a blog. I just took the pictures for myself, but later when I uploaded them, they went viral.
People have never seen the city looking like that, and they were pleasantly surprised,” he says.
He agrees that the city needs to do a lot more to improve its image.
“I did not take the pictures to change the perception of foreigners but for us as Kenyans. Everybody was pleasantly surprised. Online, the comments on the pictures range from ‘they are photoshopped’ to ‘that is not Nairobi,” says Matheka.
Matheka, who started taking pictures just four years ago, has a philosophical look at his work. “They offer hope and hope derives more strength than despair.”
The pictures have proved a hit with foreigners, who are shocked when they see a different Nairobi from what they have heard or seen in the pictures.
“They look at this city, which is in a third world country. You look at Paris, New York and Dubai and you just want to visit them, but when you get there, of course they are nowhere close to the pictures you saw.”
He discovered that when, as a student coming from an internship in Germany, he landed in Dubai and he could not relate it with the pictures he had seen of the city.