To many young East Africans, photography is just another side job, reserved for weekends or holidays. To Mwangi Kirubi, however, photography is a profession. Kirubi, known as Mwarv, dared to follow his dream. It was the best decision he ever made. That dream would take him on a series of photographic road trips around East Africa, including his home country of Kenya. Through his photos, he counters negative stereotypes about the continent with regal portraits, awe-inspiring landscapes, and iridescent city show.
Interestingly, Kirubi was not always a photographer. Infact, he did not study photography at all; rather, he studied graphic design, but his fancy for storytelling led him to an entirely different career path working as an advertising copywriter for some big advertising and radio companies in Nairobi. During his copywriting gigs, he came across beautiful works of photography and took a keen interest in the same. In 2009, he dropped everything and decided to follow his new-found passion, and he has never looked back.
‘My biggest achievement as a photographer involves making people look at Kenya and Africa in a whole new light.”
FOLLOWING YOUR DREAM ISN’T EASY
Kirubi confesses that pursuing your dream is not always rosy. You’re never guaranteed that your dream will amount to anything meaningful. With passion, however, you can find meaning even in the smallest successes. In Kirubi’s case, his passion led him to join other equally ambitious photographers and cinematographers and form OneTouch live, a collaborative project to capture the beauty of East Africa with photos and videos.
In 2013, under the “OneTouch Live” banner, Kirubi and his team embarked on a 17-day expedition from Nairobi to Bujumbura. Even the absence of external funding did not stop them, and they found support along the way from online followers around the world.
Mwangi Kirubi, Courtesy Photo
‘YOU’VE MADE ME FALL IN LOVE WITH NAIROBI AGAIN.’
In recent years, the photographers have taken several road trips to different parts of Kenya to showcase the country’s best sights. Kirubi explains that the expeditions are a deliberate way of changing the country’s negative narrative and showcasing Kenya’s beauty, stories, landscapes, and cultures.
“My biggest achievement as a photographer involves making people look at Kenya and Africa in a whole new light. From simple comments on my photos like ‘I never knew Kenya was so beautiful’ to ‘You’ve made me fall in love with Nairobi again ‘ These are my greatest conquests. They make the sweat sweet and not salty.” says Kirubi.
Challenges and the pursuit of anything worthwhile are bedfellows, as Kirubi has found out. The OneTouch Live Africa expedition, for example, was extremely tiring. The crew had to drive, shoot, reverse to capture some more images, and continue driving. At the end, the team of 10 photographers and cinematographers spent twice as much time on the road as planned.
The OneTouch Live Expedition on a trip to Lake Natron. Photo Courtesy of Kirubi
CHALLENGCS ARE GUARANTEED.
During the pursuit of individual projects, kirubi says he encountered several roadblocks. For example, his photographs equipment was stolen in 2013. Additionally, when traversing East Africa. he was once detained by the Ugandan police for five hours and they confiscated his passport and equipment, Yet,
Kirubi takes all the challenges in stride. “I don’t think there’s anyone who has it rosy. Challenges are guaranteed and my responses to the challenges are also guaranteed — I handle it all in good stride,” the amiable Kirubi says.
The relentless pursuit of his dream led Kirubi to establish his ownphotography company — Click Pictureworks. He also established PichaDuka, a site where people from all over the world can buy quality images and footage from Africa. In addition to his own photos, Kirubi and his team catalog and sell pictures for other African photographers on PichaDuka.
GET OUT OF THE SOCIAL PRISON!
For his parting words, Kirubi has some advice for Africa’s young people ‘Get out of the social prison’… “You don’t have to conform to what the world expects of you. Follow your heart and by doing so, you will find peace that surpasses all understanding. Believe me; you’d rather be broke and happy than rich and sad.”
|Alice M. Mithamo is a freelance writer and journalist. She also runs a modern farm and blogs about it at smartfarmingkenya.com|