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Gravity Exhibition

A really epic collaboration happened this month.

No, it wasn’t a Jay Z, Khaligraph Jones, Kendrick Lamar, Tony Nyadundo mash up but a pretty similar one in terms of epicness!

Photographers Thandiwe Muriu, Mutua Matheka, Osborne Macharia , Joe Makeni and Illustrator, Jeffrey Otieno came together to promote blackness in an amazing exhibition titled ‘Gravity’.

All the artists mentioned represent the very best in Kenya’s visual arts and the fact that they all came together for an exhibition was really too much for my heart to handle.

I visited the Prokraft Studios, where the exhibition was being held, this past weekend and got to view all the artwork on display with a big cup of ice-cream in hand *Thanks for the ice-cream guys. Customer service on fleek! Now let’s all try and bury that fleek word :-)

I am honestly still in awe of the marvellous bodies of visual art created by each individual.

Below is an apt description of Gravity as defined by ProKraft:

“We tend to like to think that black is despondent; because we are told that back is melancholic, synonymous with being immersed in a hopeless state. We have to know that black is amorphous.

The darkened condition that welcomes light.

The  blank slate from which we draw our creativity.

The seductively ambiguous endless possibility.

We have to know, the strength that is emitted from this so called darkness, the unapologetic bravado of its isolation; to attract imagination.

Black is the bountiful beauty that you least expect to illuminate your imagination; and we would like to think you see it like we do.

Experience Black… Experience Gravity.”


DSC_0072“I am curious about ‘blackness’ and what it means to be African, myself included. The black edition of gravity to me is about exploring this theme of ‘blackness’ in my world, especially in regards to race issues and mental slavery. I explore the struggle within black people regarding their culture, skin, opinion of themselves and opinion the ‘white’ world has of them. To me black is about a struggle, culturally, mentally and socio-economically.”

Mutua Matheka, who usually shoots landscapes and architectural structures, explained that the use of a model for his project was completely out of his comfort zone. He thus chose to blend the black and white images of Nairobi with the striking dark skin male model so as to promote the ‘Black’ theme. The images, which were shot at the Chester House rooftop, required days of research, endless location scouting and perfect timing to capture the buildings in the best lighting. The effort was definitely worth it judging from the work displayed.


DSC_0036“My black project is inspired by black people that have made an impact and that are influential in the society. I used caricatures for this as to depict personalities and added a bit of fun to it. I however intentionally used colour for in this project to focus attention on black as a rack and not as a hue.”

Jeffery’s project was such a delight to view. The most striking part of his illustrations was the caricature of Lupita Nyong’o which caught my eye the second I walked into the room. His work consisted of bright colours, clean lines, big heads and an overall quirky tone. The most shocking (and super impressive part) about Jeffery is that he creates all his artwork on Photoshop in three days maximum! HEH! TALENT NAYO!

The special people chosen for his project are an SI Unit for black greatness and his work is a fantastic ode to these amazing individuals.


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DSC_0067Thandiwe chose to take a dynamic turn and use different lighting and contrast techniques to develop images that are not her usual style of photography. Her desire for this project was to have each image depict the mental enslavement to the meaning and aesthetic of ‘black’ in her own words, ‘As a society, we are blind to the beauty we possess and instead use ‘black’ as a protective armour that we wear to keep the world out… Every person is a masterpiece with beauty that should be carried with boldness, confidence and pride.

Now, those who know me know how much of an inspiration Thandiwe Muriu is to me.  She was the main reason I attended the exhibition in the first place and I was definitely not disappointed. Thandiwe often uses black and beautiful models in her work and thus the level of talent displayed in her ‘Black’ Gravity project was truly effortless. The contrast between the dark skin tones of the models and bright chains concealing their most delicate features created a beautiful effect that left me feeling extremely inspired.


DSC_0057Joe Makeni’s project was inspired by a diverse range of themes. ‘In my view, black is a term which resonates highly with my everyday surroundings and areas of my travel diary. From conflict diamonds, to fear and aesthetics of design influenced by my engineering background, my pieces confront the reality that most of us battle with every day; the reality that most of our limitations are actually in our minds and not in external factors and constraints.

Darkness was very present in Joe Makeni’s work. I was so sad that my camera did not capture the essence of his work (Tears. The light at the studio reflected on the images)

Observing his work made me feel like I had journeyed through every picture on display. His work was exquisitely detailed in the most subtle manner and the subjects and objects shone through the dark hues impeccably. Imagine a black car driving through a dark night with nothing but the sound of its sexy engine roaring through the night. That just about sums up Joe’s art!


DSC_0041Osborne’s Gravity Black Project was inspired by Africa. To him, ‘Black’ has been referenced negatively by many when describing Africa and its people. Ultimately the negative referencing has resulted in the discrimination of Africa and encouraged the endangerment of a different kind of ‘Black’ in Africa by Africa. Osborne seeks to shed a light on this through his project names ‘Melanino’.

The irony and deeper meaning behind Osborne’s work shone through like a watchman’s torch in a dark tunnel. His choice of subject, albino models, made me question the term ‘black’ and how loosely it is used. Blackness is ultimately a state of being. It is who you are as a person without necessarily viewing the exterior. His style of photography which often involves the use of extraordinary lighting made the images look like images out of ‘The world’s best photographs’ book and emphasized the fact that all shades of black truly are beautiful.

Republished with permission from the author, Lyra Aoko. Visit her website at

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