Osborne Macharia breathes life into his fantastical, fictional imagery

The self-taught Kenyan photographer takes the Design Indaba audience on a mesmerising journey of fiction, fantasy and narrative.

Hailing from Nairobi in Kenya, Osborne Macharia is a photographer and digital artist whose colourful, eccentric work has captured the imaginations of fans across the world. From his League of Extravagant Grannies series, which captured the story of three old ladies who were once government and business leaders in the seventies; to his “Kabangu” project, a fantastical photo series that depicted a hip-hop group of Kenyan grandpas, his imagery tells the stories of afro-futuristic worlds most of us would never have dreamed.

Joined on stage at the Design Indaba conference 2017 by his creative partner and stylist Kevin Abraham, the self-taught Macharia spoke of the difficulty in trying to explain his work to people verbally. “I think there’s a disconnect between my brain and my mouth,” he joked with the audience. “Things just get lost in between.”

So, rather than tell them, he showed them.

One by one, an Extravagant Granny, a Hip Hop Grandpa, and a Kenyan warrior with dwarfism roamed across the stage. As the audience got a good look at each character, Macharia went into detail about how he met each one, where they took their images and what their individual histories were before revealing to the audience the resulting photographs.

Shot, designed and created in-studio, Macharia’s photography reveals an acute attention to detail, as well as a distinctive knack for storytelling. And though his creations are certainly entertaining, they also speak to more serious issues that are plaguing the continent of Africa. Take, for example, his Magadi project, which he launched on stage at Design Indaba 2017.

For this project, Macharia imagines a group of former female circumcisers who abandoned their former practice to educate young girls escaping early marriage in the art of fashion. A commentary on the issue of female genital mutilation, the work is at once striking, inspiring, and challenging.

“Welcome to my world,” Macharia quipped, “a world full of fiction, fantasy and narrative. Welcome to Afrofuturism.”

The first of the Design Indaba Festival 2018 speakers will be released soon. Watch this space. 

Watch the Interview with Osborne Macharia