Osborne Macharia: Watchmen by Night; Hip Hop heads by Day photographic project
Osborne Macharia is a photographer at the apex of his creativity and profession. Currently, no other photographer has their photographic projects fully embedded in my consciousness as his.
KABANGU – Kenya’s 4 Hip Hop heads photo project – is his latest. This project follows on from the popular Kenya’s League of Extravagant Grannies. It’s only fair that after looking on whilst the grannies traveled in incredible style that the men show the world that they are just as cool.
Or perhaps this is just a reaction to the onset of the new man, you know, the types that look like Tyson Beckford and spend their days posing on Instagram. This may be just a backlash to all those six packs and manicured hair.
Perhaps that is not it at all….It may well be that the 4 Hip Hop heads serve a far greater purpose. They allow men of a certain age, definetely pre-MySpace, to indulge in and reminisce about how things were back in the day and provide women of that age an opportunity to ask themselves how they fell for their frivolous charms .Yep, you can ridicule them now, but always remember, these 4 and their friends, in their hey days, with those haircuts and those hip hop uniforms ( and all that attitude and swag) held sway over you 😊.
This is how Osborne Macharia describes the Kabangu: Watchmen by night, Hip Hop heads by day project:
KABANGU: Watchmen by night, Hip Hop heads by day. This is the story of 4 gentlemen in the heart of Kariobangi (one of Nairobi’s informal settlements) who call themselves Kabangu. A group of real hip hop heads from the 80’s who meet up regularly to educate and mentor upcoming young talent venturing out into the hip hop industry. They teach them on values such as peace, equality, prosperity and social justice. Little is known about them till now….
Now Osborne Macharia tells us that these fantastic 4 are watchmen (security experts or officers to you!). As I look at them in their various poses, I can’t help, but wonder if they’d stumbled into thier “watchmen” profession. Maybe a couple of them were once record producers or small business owners doing something creative and risqué. Perhaps too much time spent inhaling “creative juices smoke” – you know the kind that Bill Clinton never inhaled, but Obama did – made their sales and profit figures look hazily better than they were in reality. Maybe the economy was to blame or maybe the Instagram generation with their app infested smart phones, savvy skills and definitely better clothes (in my humble opinion) shoved these ancients unceremoniously out of the way!
But they do have something these millennials don’t posses, well at least not yet. Wisdom. As the saying goes “It is easier to be wise for others than yourself.” I’m delighted and heartened by their new found socially responsible roles and regular mentorship of the young. They restore my faith in humanity….yes really, they do! With the exception of Mr “Nairobbery” below, i’ll absolutely be delighted to hang out with them jamming to some old skool soundz.
The above of course is simply my interpretation of Osborne Macharia’s photo project. Like the Kenya’s League of Extravagant Grannies project, it has the quality of lending itself to bringing out my own stories – full of my own stereotypes. This element perhaps rather than the aesthetics of his work is what makes Osborne Macharia’s photographic projects special.
BEHIND THE SCENES
None of this creativity happens magically. It involves a degree of thankless tasks, collaborations with others and sheer hard work to bring it all to fruition. It is in that spirit that we asked Osborne himself to give us an insight into this latest project.
Tell us about your new project, the story of the four hip hop heads?
It was born from a conversation I had with Richard (the hair stylist for the project) who wanted to do a couple of projects throughout 2016 based on different themes. The first one was to be based on geometrical shapes. I didnt want to go for the conventional young, dark, good looking male model and so that set me on a journey of trying to figure out a different subject matter that would give a twist to the brief yet bring out what was initially intended. Thats when the idea of using old men came into play and styling them to look like old school hip hop heads but not as the style there was in the US, but in Kenya back then.
What were some of the highlight, challenges or peculiarities to this project?
Getting the right cast is always a challenge in all the projects and convincing them to take part even when they don’t exactly know what its all about. Shopping for costumes also takes time as well as making sure they fit the personalities. The results are always worth all that work.
An extended interview with Osborne Macharia is here – Osborne Macharia: The storyteller extraordinaire turning photography into art