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Melanin-0 (zero): Osborne Macharia Investigates Skin ‘Blackness’ and Identity in Africa

Kenyan photographer Osborne Macharia is best known for his visually stunning portrait photography – extensive work exhibiting his subjects gracefully poised with rich expressions.

His most recent conceptual photo series entitled ‘Melanin-0 (zero)’ investigates ‘blackness’ and identity in Africa – the construction of a “different kind of ‘black’ in Africa by Africa”. A series that has produced striking images that tell stories of how Africanness and skin color are not verifications of each other. And that “Blackness” fails at every level in both the historical and political context.

Featuring the dreams and aspirations of African people living with Albinism, Macharia seeks to shed light on what he calls “the forsaken black.” He says, “‘Black’ has long been referenced negatively by many when describing Africa and its people. Ultimately this negative referencing has resulted in the discrimination of Africa and encouraged the endangerment of a different kind of ‘black’ in Africa by Africa – the forsaken black.”

A powerful homage to visibility beyond skin color, Macharia does more than just highlight the presence and reality of Albinism – he holds up a mirror to the African society. Styled by Kenyan born fashion stylist Kevo Abbra, the series, it seems, triumphantly attempts to create a new and progressive consciousness and to stimulate change in the mentality concerning identity in Africa – beyond the bounds of identity that is socially constructed around skin tone and devoid of any consideration of human interiority. And further, if the intention is to dignify and elevate Albinos as equally ambitious and self-determined Africans – then his ambitious and winning project unequivocally succeeds.

Macharia makes a profound statement to the continent and beyond – “skin blackness” is certainly not a marker for African identity.

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