Kenyan digital artist relives journey to Black Panther success
A job to promote the blockbuster movie Black Panther may have been one of Osborne Macharia’s greatest breakthroughs, but it also embodied the long and adventurous journey for this Kenyan photographer and digital artist.
Speaking to CNN’s African Voices programme, Macharia reflected on the journey to that has defined his photography career.
“Growing up, I knew I wanted to be an architect. Somewhere along the line, architecture became more [like] mathematics and engineering and I just lost interest because my passion was in arts. I’ve always been a quiet kid growing up… I daydream a lot. It’s within these times that I zone out and these ideas come. When the interest in photography came, it came with a bang. This is what I’ve been doing for the last eight years. I like that it’s the work that speaks. You don’t have to be loud and vocal, no one cares how loud you are, it’s all about the work at the end of the day,” he said.
Macharia knew he was on the right path when global brands took interest in his work. In 2013, Guinness asked him to photograph a pan-African advertising campaign.
He reflects on this time in his career: “I remember shooting it and thinking, ‘This is it, this is a calling, this is what I want to do.’ And it’s been a journey ever since then. I never thought I I’d be doing what I’m doing and be where I am. I’ve been so fortunate and so blessed to be working with some really big, cool brands up to this point.”
Last year, Marvel Entertainment commissioned Macharia’s art to promote the blockbuster movie Black Panther.
He looks back at where his passion has taken him: “My target was to be a good commercial photographer, but my career has taken a totally different turn… to the point where brands approach you and say, ‘You do the concept, and we’ll finance it to shoot.’”
Macharia attributes his success to having a positive team to support his work: “I’ve been able to do the things that I do because of a good team around me, from the makeup artists to the hair stylists, the wardrobe, to guys who do props.
Being able to collaborate with different people in different fields to create a piece of art, I think that’s the most amazing thing you can do as a creative.”
The programme follows Macharia to his latest exhibition with Gikosh, a studio that makes art out of aeroplane parts.
He outlines the vision for the project: “What we’re doing is called disruptive art. What we’re trying to do is create a platform where people can see art differently from the traditional forms in gallery spaces. So [we’re] bringing it out to the public and that’s why we’re not charging anything [for people to view the exhibition].”
In much of Macharia’s work, there is a fusion between African culture and technology, in a style known as ‘afrofuturism’.
He defines the genre to the programme: “It’s a post-colonial narrative about the continent, where you embrace history, present culture and future aspirations of people of colour and of black people through art, through music, through fashion and distil a different narrative about the continent.
“When we started doing it, we were just doing our work, we never thought of it as afrofuturism. But when I did my research, I actually found that my work fell within that genre of work. I believe afrofuturism is going to make people look at themselves, I think afrofuturism is going to make people put more detail into their work and see themselves from a different perspective.”