Kenyan Osborne Macharia is an Afrofuturism pioneer. Categories like past or present, fact or fiction are redundant in his fantastic images, of forest rangers in tailor-made suits with hyena’s by their side, for instance, or of partying grannies. Macharia also directs extraordinary music videos.
No Touch Am
The herbal men and animal charmers of the Hausa-tribe in the northern state of Katsina are well-clad protectors of the forest. In brightly coloured, perfectly cut tailor-made suits they combat illegal logging and other forest-endangering activities. Like their ancestors before them, they have domesticated wild animals by their side: a chained hyena, a baboon holding a wooden stick. ‘Little was known about these men’, says Osborne Macharia (Kenya, 1986) in the introduction to his series No Touch Am (2017). He also directed the video of the eponymous song by Nairobi musician and producer Blinky Bill, starring these herbal men.
Macharia used to work as an architect before he re-schooled himself as a photographer and filmmaker. He makes a living with commercial jobs, but gained cultstatus with his imaginative free photography. He describes his work as Afrofuturism, a genre in which fact and fiction and past and present are all mixed up. In his own words, he tells stories full of ‘historical elements, contemporary culture and future aspirations of people of colour’. With an assertive and artistic twist, he re-interprets the often negative imagery of post-colonial Africa.