It’s another Wednesday and time to meet one of the men who live, work and play in Nairobi. Today on Man Around Nairobi we feature one of the best urban photographers in Africa Mutua Matheka. You may have seen his beautiful pictures of Nairobi and his amazing portfolio of great photographs of different places and subjects. Mutua Matheka describes himself as an artist born and bred in Machakos and fine-tuned by Nairobi. He draws, sketches, molds stuff, destroys stuff & occasionally creates stuff. Apart from photography he also draws, does illustrations, graphic art, and creates architectural visualizations. When he is not meeting a deadline or sharpening crayons, he love to get his adrenaline pounding by riding motorbikes, mountain climbing, and (if he got a chance) para-troop and skiing. Mutua Matheka together with David ‘Blackman’ Muthami and the UN Habitat have been using photography to showcase beautiful Nairobi and eventually Africa through ‘I’m a City Changer‘ campaign.
1. Did you grow up in Nairobi?
I didn’t grow up in Nairobi. I grew up in Machakos. The thing I loved about Machakos is how everyone knew each other. Like another mother who was my mother’s friend could chapa me if she saw me misbehave out there even in my mother’s absence. Also swimming every weekend, my mom taught kids how to swim and it was so much fun.
I went to Lukenya Academy in Std 8. We used to see a lot of Giraffes, Zebra and Antelopes out there. We used to climb the hill almost every weekend and it was the best thing to do. Once in a while we had to watch out because there were hyenas on the prowl too. One of the best experiences there was eating cactus fruit. I know, I’m a wild man.
I came to Nairobi when I joined high school in 1997. I was at Moi Forces Academy which was in Eastleigh. This was baptism by fire and I remember my mom showed me how to get to Machakos airport and to school. She also told me that I could get my bearing by locating KICC. I did this a lot more than I would care to admit. Those days Nairobi for me was more about Gikomba than anywhere else.
2. What you love about Nairobi?
I love Nairobi’s creative energy. I feel like there’s a buzz that’s very alive when I’m in Nairobi and there’s a bunch of creative people I am fortunate to call friends who make this a bigger reality. I love Nairobi in the night and I love the sunrise in Nairobi. Best viewed from the viewpoint at Central Park.
3. What would you change about Nairobi?
I would make Nairobi a city for people other than a city for cars. I’d pedestrianise many streets inside the city centre and fill them with art installations from artists. I’d be very strict about building regulations and may even do away with many residential areas to bring order and sanitation to them. Most importantly, I’d make the city friendlier to bikers, mothers with prams, disabled people. And have more trees.
4. As a professional how is it working in the Nairobi? Is Nairobi open to what you do or what could be better?
As a photographer, I feel like Nairobi is best suited to the photos I take and my perspective. I would definitely hope that Nairobi would get friendlier to people with cameras because it is these people that show evidence that Nairobi is worth a visit.
5. If you had a tourist friend coming in from outside the country what three things would you say to sell them the idea that Nairobi is worth visiting.
Anytime a friend is coming to Nairobi there are a few things I always do with them. First is a visit to the KICC rooftop to watch the sunset.
Then a walk in the city to give them a vibe of Nairobi. I also give them a brief history of some of the buildings that have cool background stories. These I learnt by doing a walking tour of Nairobi with the National Museums of Kenya via the Nairobi Gallery.
Third thing would be to one of the art centers around. (Kuona, GoDown, The Art Space, the Nairobi Gallery, the Africa heritage house) any of these really. There are a lot more though. If possible, we may go for a gig too.