Anyone who has googled most African cities like Nairobi will know that the images that come up are not exactly flattering. It's mostly slums, conflict or at best, wildlife.
One day, Mutua Matheka went up to the rooftop of one of the taller buildings in Nairobi and saw the city, from a perspective new even to him. He realised Nairobi is actually beautiful. This moment changed everything. Mutua saw the distortion of what is presented to the world versus what is. He set out to photograph his city, in order to show the beauty he saw in it and, to balance the imagery that introduces the world to Nairobi.
This journey has led him to like-minded individuals who share the passion for shattering the common perceptions associated with African cities. We all share the conviction that perspective shapes what we see and, what we see shapes our mindsets and ideas about places. Together, we are preparing for a new adventure, with the purpose to disrupt the narrative about urban Africa. We have all worked, in our individual capacities, on telling stories from the African continent that educate people about this place we call home – Africa.
We four storytellers are now in preparation for an ambitious road trip around Southern Africa, to capture images that balance existing perceptions of African cities. We would love for you to be part of this quest. As Mutua likes to say, "together we are stronger and better". That's why we've chosen crowdfunding as a tool to kickstart this project and why we want you to join our journey.
This is a road trip project with the purpose of exploring what defines urbanity across our continent. From Nairobi to Durban, the team will see and document what these cities look like, meet the people that reside in them, discover the sub-cultures and photograph the built environment. The journey, stories and photos will be shared with all who are interested, via various social media platforms.
There are over a billion people living in Africa and it is projected that in the next 15 years, half of them will live in our cities. As city dwellers ourselves, proud citizens of Nairobi, we have seen our city grow and evolve so rapidly in the last 10 years. We have been shaped by these developments and in a way have also shaped the urban landscape and the culture that is inextricably linked to it.
why Unscrambling Africa?
The scramble and partition of Africa in the 1880’s and 90’s totally interfered with Africa’s progress – its social and economic life. Over a century later, we still live and feel the effects of this partition especially in the separation of people on the continent. It’s hard for Africans to travel within the continent and so it’s hard to have information and experience of what life and people are like in different countries. We have to rely on news channels, whom we see not to share the interest of unifying the continent as their top priority.
Unscrambling Africa is a project that seeks to ‘discover’ urban areas all over the continent, from Alexandria to CapeTown, Yaoundé through to Addis Ababa exploring the different personalities to African cities. Mutua has already documented 5 African cities and will be taking this opportunity to photograph 13 more cities to document what urbanity means in the African context. His passion leads him to uncover how we use, define and relate with our spaces in Africa, whether explicitly or implicitly defined; to explore African architecture; to discover how different or similar the cultures of urbanity are in different African cities, and most importantly to share this information so that more of us can gain an insight of what stories our neighbouring cities behold. Undoubtedly photography and video will be one of the most impressionable ways to unscramble our continent.
how we plan to do this
Our visual exploration begins on January 10th 2017.
We plan to travel to more than 13 cities, on a journey covering 15,000km within a period of 8 weeks – documenting Architecture, public spaces and the people and cultures that exist within them.
We depart from Nairobi and drive through; Tanzania – Malawi – Zambia – Botswana – Namibia – South Africa – Lesotho – Swaziland – Mozambique – Zimbabwe …
…and then all the way back home to Nairobi.
We want our journey to demonstrate what’s possible with imagination, collaboration and action. We want to overturn the widely held belief that it is difficult to cross borders and travel within our continent. Through this we aim to illustrate that the distances between us need not separate us. We will do all this by leveraging off the virtual relationships that we have managed to forge, thanks to social media, internet and mobile technology.
Photographer, artist, former architect and avid traveler, with
a great eye for showcasing African landscapes, architecture
and cultures. He has been a photographer since 2010 and has
a dream of photographing all African cities. Mutua chooses to
see the beauty in the mundane.
Travel and documentary photographer, linguist, Instagram
influencer and adventure-seeker. Joe has an eye for landscapes
and capturing human moments of beauty.
Artist, designer, creative director and storyteller whose
current tools of choice are illustration and graphic design.
Inspired by nature, tropical colour as well as culture and craft
traditions from across the continent – content creation is her
cup of tea.
Travel & Documentary storyteller using film as his medium. Inspired by the stories he hears from the people he meets all over the continent.
we would love to take you with us!
We want to travel lightly and respectfully through the places we go, learning from and collaborating with people we meet and leaving both parties with many positives from the experience.
Some of the content we will be creating includes:
- Daily Instagram posts, photography and illustration
- Weekly vlogs on YouTube
- Weekly blog posts on our respective blogs: mutuamatheka.co.ke/blog, joewere.net/blog, afri-love.com
- Regular podcasts
These activities will begin in the run-up to the journey, documenting the preparation.
After our travels we plan to compile and showcase our collective work in a variety of ways including:
- A video web series (12 episodes)
- A photography coffee table book
- Photographic prints
- A colouring book
- An exhibition that will eventually travel to all the cities we visited
Risks and challenges
Travelling across Africa by road is still relatively unchartered territory, especially given so many border crossings. This, along with the usual road trip risks, means that our travel may potentially take longer than planned.
To ensure that any delay in our schedule will not have a knock-on effect on our rewards production schedule. We are doing a lot of the work before we even depart (e.g. working out the design of the book, format of the web episodes etc.).
We each have over a decade of experience in our respective fields and are confident that between our complementary knowledge and skills, as well as our wide networks, we will be able to overcome any challenges to do with the creation of our rewards.
If we do anticipate any delays, we will let our supporters know as soon as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)