This past Friday, Magiq Lens held a photo exhibition at The Alchemist entitled ‘Walks of Life’: A photographic safari through Northern Kenya, captured by Migwa Nthigah. It is characterised by beautiful portraiture of indigenous people from Northern Kenya in the striking and remote environments they call home. The images stood on their own easels placed throughout The Loft, surrounded by a din of conversation and Friday night cheer. Each picture served as a window to a different space and time, contrasted starkly to the urban Nairobi atmosphere. Photographers, writers, business people, musicians, entrepreneurs, and people from various sectors of the Arts, attended the event and provided insightful commentary on the photographs displayed.
An interview with Migwa before the event revealed some of the motivations behind the photo series and how he hoped the audience would interact with the images.
What inspired ‘Walks of Life’?
“This project was for ‘Capture Kenya’ by Safaricom, so it had a very commercial angle originally. As a byproduct, however, the photographers on the project had so many interesting stories that were outside Safaricom’s brief. So, I thought it would be a good idea to have an exhibition and display these other photographic stories that people didn’t get to see on the Safaricom calendar or the website. There were a lot of other stories and images that didn’t make it onto that platform that were worth displaying for the public to see.”
What struck you most about the people and places you saw on this journey?
“Sometimes you can feel as though your world is it, that Nairobi is it. Because of that, my creativity was suffocated and limited by my surroundings and I wasn’t inspired. This trip opened my mind and gave me that energy to travel and to do more and see more. Not only in my photography but also in my relationships. That was my biggest take-away, to not be closed into the circles of people and places that are familiar but to continue to explore all walks of life.”
What do you want people to take away from this exhibition?
“I’d like people to travel. Go wherever and whenever you can and document your experience. Hopefully this exhibition will inspire people to get in their cars or on their bikes and see more of Kenya.”
This message came through loud and clear to the attendees of the exhibition. The photo series prompted different discussions around the venue, some explaining how the images inspired them to want to know more, to understand the people and the places immortalised in the photographs. One man candidly stated, ‘This is the Kenya no one knows, but here it is, it’s real’. He went on to explain that within the images he saw stories being told, and though they were happening in remote regions, they were human scenes we can all relate to – ‘same stories, different locations’.
Others drew parallels between the individuals in the images and themselves, one woman stating that the relief of returning home after a long day as depicted in the image ‘Homecoming’ was a sentiment that she herself could resonate with. Discussions around the photographic effects and techniques utilised in the exhibition focused largely on the use of lighting, colour and the strategic placement of the subjects within the frame. The images were not grouped together by subject or location, allowing for each story to stand out as an isolated pictorial narrative. The domestic scenes seemed the most conferred over as the viewers speculated over the conversations being had in the pictures, wondering what had inspired the authentic emotion exhibited. The thoughts and feelings expressed by the patrons revealed just how powerful photography can be in soliciting emotion, curiosity and empathy from its audience.
The reception of the photo series was positive as well as inquisitive, with the audience desiring to know more about the people and tribes captured. In this growing Arts scene in Kenya it is a significant step to see people from various professions around Nairobi come together to discuss and engage with art in a meaningful and acute way. As the hours passed, the space filled with more and more people, some inwardly and some outwardly, interacting with their favorite image and taking away with them a curiosity to see more of this exquisite country.
Musician | Writer | Visual Artist
Event Images by:
Jones Waihenya – Kreative Vault