Kenya’s League of Extravagant Grannies is one of Osborne Macharia’s more recent photographic narratives. The Kenyan architect turned photographer makes a living from his commercial photography, but he has become synonymous with the fictional characters he brings to life in his personal projects.
Kenya’s League of Extravagant Grannies tells the story of three retired women who were once government and business leaders in the 70s. Macharia narrates the rest of the tale:
“They now live the retired high life travelling to exotic and remote areas of Africa to explore, party and enjoy in exclusivity. We managed to catch up with 3 of them in Somalia soon after they landed. Little is known about them till now…”
Macharia says he was planning to do a sequel of Nywele Za Kale (Hair of Long Ago,) a project he did in 2014 that focussed on men with grey hair. The light switch moment for the “jet-setting grannies” concept came to the photographer when he and project stylist Kevin Abraham were on assignment in Somaliland and noticed a fleet of private planes in the background.
“We knew for sure we had cracked the concept,” says Macharia. “This led to weeks of production and getting the details right until we finally executed two weeks ago.”
Not one of the ladies featured in the images is a former minister, despite their convincing performances. In their brief, Abraham and Macharia decided that the models they chose had to have grey hair and look like they were stylish in their youth.
The photographer admits that he knows of men in Kenya who actually fit the high-flying retiree profile and believes this to be the reason why people find the characters to be so authentic. “So many people have been moved by the images; it’s something that looked, felt and sounded so real that it started a conversation,” says Macharia.
This artist was originally published on African Digital Art.