On this week’s episode of African Voices CNN International meets Mutua Matheka, a Kenyan travel photographer who wants the world to see the continent through his lens.
The Kenyan native originally trained to be an architect but soon realised he had a love for pictures. He says: “I bought a camera not to be a photographer, just because I was in love with the idea. Barely like one year into owning a camera, I was like since it’s here, I might as well be serious with trying to be better as a photographer.”
Capturing a beautiful photo of Nairobi helped Matheka realise his passion for photography, he explains: “Someone told me that I could come to KICC and I could just pay and go to the roof top and see the whole of Nairobi. So, I came, went up there…. The lights came on, and it was for me one of the most beautiful views of Nairobi I’ve seen. I decided that I’m going to shoot that. I posted, and I realize most of the people talking about the picture are not even foreigners, are Kenyans, and they don’t believe that its Nairobi.”
On why he believes an African-born photographer taking pictures of Africa is important, Matheka tells the programme: “Africa’s beauty is not very accessible to Africans… for most of us, we don’t know a lot about our continent and I hope that changes because of my photography…. we market ourselves for foreigners and not ourselves.”
Matheka describes how images of Africa are often captured by tourists, rather than locals and would like Africans to take control of the narrative of their own cities: “For me, it usually exciting to show other people like me a place that they would like to go and visit, that really pushes a lot of my travel work and my work on representing Africa as an African… I think it’s a very exciting time especially now… foreigners have spoken for us… and you never find any pictures from that place that are shot by a local.”
Matheka’s photos of Africa have helped him amass thousands of followers on Instagram and seen his work shown in art exhibits. “I did a showcase of Nairobi city in pictures…and when I did it and I saw how people appreciated seeing those pictures…they would come in and they would look at the streets, trying to identify which street it is, which building, and there was a lot of excitement about that, and I remember thinking to myself it will be nice if I could do this but for all African cities.”
With the help of the Ford Foundation, Matheka has been able to travel across Africa capturing its beauty. He says: “The Ford foundation also heard about what I was doing and I was invited to join a fellowship called Africa, no filter, which is a fellowship with the intention of supporting different people across the continent… part of the fellowship was a grant, so I used my grant to takes us back on the road, so we ended up successfully doing 104 days on the road covering more than 18 thousand kilometres over nine countries in southern Africa.”
On his aspirations for the future, Matheka tells African Voices: “I didn’t think first of all that my work would be would have this sort of relevance, this sort of acceptance or that there would be people who know my work without even knowing me… I just hope that people can have, from my work at least, I hope that people can have a database that they can look at African cities and see that progression.”