If you look for images of Africa online you’ll find an overabundance of wildlife or urban poverty. And, while these are part of our narrative, the vast quantity of these pictures would lead you to believe that this is the main story. Maybe it is for people who don’t live here, but why are we letting others own that?
This was brought up by Mutua Matheka, a friend of mine who is one of Kenya’s great photographers, as he was describing what drove him to get into photography. Mutua was annoyed by the fact that the images that he found online didn’t represent the country and continent that he knew. With a degree in architecture, he set out to capture the Africa he knows, not just Kenya, but the cities, buildings and people across the continent.
In Africa in particular, the world tells stories about us, other people create the imagery.
When the world isn’t the way you would like it to be, you have a choice to do something, or not. Mutua has clearly chosen to do something; he’s chosen to be one of the Africans who create the imagery and narrative of Africa for all of us.
What are the images that best define Africa’s challenges and opportunities?
Besides being a fan of Mutua, I’ve had the joy of working with him on the #Kenya365 Instagram project. Now, again we get to work together, as we are both on the judging panel for a new competition that IBM is running, called a ‘World is Our Lab’ over the next 3 months.
Now, unlike Mutua, I’m not a professional photographer. I’m a bit of a hack, to be honest, playing around with my phone and limiting myself to what I can shoot with that small device. This is good, it means that if you’re entering into the competition (which you should!), then even if you’re not a pro, you’ve got a chance as I’m just like you. The other judges are Salim Amin from A24 Media and Uyi Stewart. Chief Scientist, IBM Research – Africa.
What you can win:
- A chance to visit IBM’s new research lab in Nairobi, Kenya
- Laptops with photo editing software
- Photography workshop with a leading African photographer
- Trip to Hemingways Watamu Hotel on the Kenyan coast
The three main categories:
- African Grand Challenges
- African City Systems
- African Innovation
Judges will be looking for photos that express how people living in Africa manage their energy or water needs, how they commute, how cities live and breathe and how people come up with innovative solutions to address their needs and create new opportunities.