With The Gentlemen Of Kibera – one of several exhibitions by African photographers showing at Cardiff’s Ffotogallery for October’s Diffusion Festival, and then for the remainder of the year – Kenyan Brian Otieno has created a profound documentation of the vibrant community in which he lives.
It’s one reflecting the true soul of Kibera, fashion and youth: suited and leather-booted, with decorative ties and hats, the four young men portrayed by Otieno, similar to the works of Stephen Okath, creates a different narrative of life in the slums, a place of innovation and creativity.
The stylish clothes that these men are wearing inject energy and focus through their gaze, power, attitude, as well as joy and entertainment through various stances. The likes of Pierre Bourdieu would argue that fashion is an expression of class distinction, where people who live in poverty would make a more make a realistic use of clothing. Here, fashion isn’t functional, or about wearing nice garments, it’s a way of recreating and reclaiming their own identity.
Life in the largest slum in Africa certainly has its severe hardships, and poverty is visible in the backdrop of Otieno’s work at Diffusion. However, poverty is secondary here, the narrative created by Otieno focuses on youth and individuality, as well as the various realities, in which these Kiberian gentlemen find power and strength in shaping.
Ffotogallery, Cardiff, until Sat 31 Dec. Info: here
words MARED THOMAS for BUZZ CULTURE
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