The mastermind behind Kenya’s fanciful subcultures, Osborne Macharia, is creating African fantasy underpinned by Culture, Fantasy, and Identity
Words: Tshiamo Seape
Over the past few days, The Wire has brought you some two stories detailing the exploits of a unique cast of characters. Both hailing from Kenya, The Kabangu, Kariobangi’s Hip Hop Grandpas, and the globe-trotting League of Extravagant Grannies told stories of such stunning rarity. From the beginning, they seemed so fanciful as to be completely unbelievable; way too good to be true. And, if at any moment you thought their stories were even remotely false, you would have been right – the whole time.
Unfortunately for the world, The Hip Hop Grandpas and the League of Extravagant Grannies are both entirely fictional. You’ll hear no apologies from me, however. Like the myth of Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy, our only intention was to spread joy and instil a sense of wonder in you, my dear reader. If I managed that then I’ve done my job. Like I said I make no apologies, but I also take no credit. The real star of the show is one Osborne Macharia.
His name is one you’re probably not familiar with, but why would you be? You don’t find Osborne; he finds you. He is the master of uncovering the unknown, so when he trains his eye on a subject best believe it’s going to be something weird. But, in order to unravel the mystery wrapped in a conundrum that is the work of Osborne Macharia, we need to uncover the details of the man himself. Osborne has made a career out of creating the most dynamic narratives from his native Kenya.
Osborne Machia is, in no uncertain terms, a storyteller. His training, however, is not as a writer, and in truth, he has no training in his listed vacation – photographer. Having studied architecture, Osborne became unsatisfied with his lot in life and set out to build hid his own path that would one day lead him to the very top of the crop where photographers are concerned. A singular artist if ever there was one, Osborne’s work has coined its own name: Afrofictionalism: A blend of Culture, Fiction, and Identity that is his own creation and blurs the line between fiction and reality. His subjects, or more fittingly his characters (as they transform before his lens) have such rich narratives they take on a life of their own.
Both sets of enigmatic octogenarians are but a small taste of the work that Osborne has created, each more imaginative than the last. The wives of Mau Mau generals and special forces optometrists his narratives never lack for creativity.
While Osborne is an expert creating new worlds and identities, he is also a seasoned commercial photographer who has become highly sought-after by international brands like Vodka, MTV Base, Volkswagen, Samsung, Danone, Nestle, Cadburys, Forbes, Pepsi, Guinness to name just a few – he’s just that prolific. Recognition has come thick and fast for Osborne, and rightly so. In 2015 he was part of the team that was awarded Kenya’s first ever Canne Lion. He was also listed as one of the world’s top 200 digital artists by Lurzers Archive – a bi-monthly advertising magazine.
Not one to forget his roots, Osborne is also the founder of Lightfreaks: an outdoor lighting workshop that aims to develop a new breed of photographers with an eye for lighting and a desire to create their own style.