EXPLORE: Talking OneTouch ‘Beyond.’ exhibition with Mutua Matheka

Some of our most favorite Kenyan photographers have one thing in common. They are members of OneTouch, a creative collective based in Nairobi and united by a desire to change perceptions of Africa by documenting and sharing the cultures and beauty of the continent. The members regularly go on road trips to explore new parts of Africa and we can all follow them on these adventures through their social media platforms and exhibitions as well as longer articles on the website. Exhibitions are an important part of the OneTouch team’s ambition to share what they document and it’s now time for a new epic one, ‘Beyond.’ which opens on April 1. We were able to catch OneTouch photographer Mutua Matheka, aka @truthslinger, in the middle of all the preparations for a behind-the-scenes conversation. Hope you enjoy & see you at the exhibition! This is one of those you don’t want to miss out on.

The new exhibition ‘Beyond.’, is a curation of images taken in 2015 while OneTouch traversed Kenya in search of captivating and insightful visual stories. ‘Beyond’ is a celebration of the group’s wanderlust and allows us to follow them from famous destinations like Nakuru, Nyahururu, Meru and Maasai Mara to the less explored West Pokot, Marigat, Samburu and Lake Natron. An aspect that makes this exhibition extra special is that it is done in partnership with HungerFree. One of the recent OneTouch trips was done in partnership with HungerFree, which is a global movement initiated by World Vision. HungerFree use proven methods combining immediate food assistance with long-term sustainable solutions in order to equip young people in Kenya and South Sudan with the skills and resources they need to free themselves and their communities from hunger. During ‘Beyond.’, all exhibited work is for sale 30% of all sales of exhibited work will go to HungerFree to support their work.

West Pokot. Photo credit OneTouch.

West Pokot. Photo credit OneTouch.

OneTouch work is always guided by a principle of dignity and respect in relation to all people, places and circumstances. This, and their exceptional professional skills have made them an appreciated partner for organizations and companies from Africa and the rest of the world who are looking for photographers and storytellers (the OneTouch team is made up of photographers, animators, filmmakers and writers). Several OneTouch projects have also been featured in both Kenyan and international media. In a press release sent out in connection to ‘Beyond.’ Mutua Matheka says:

“As a team, we believe that we should document our stories as Africans for other Africans. In this way we hope to change our own sometimes stereotypical and pejorative opinions of our continent and grow stronger together. HungerFree work towards the same goal in their way. If we can support their work through ours, we are honored. We believe this is what changemakers should do – work together.”

How and when did the idea for do this exhibition grow?
MM: Exhibiting has always been the goal of OT since we started doing road trips. It’s at our core. Part of our mission is to “document and share”. The sharing is as important as shooting.

What do you personally enjoy about the process behind and around an exhibition?
MM: 1. When I set to see the prints, touch and smell them. 2. When other people see the exhibition. And seeing their reactions (tension.)

How did you choose which pictures to include in the exhibition?
MM: We have a team in OneTouch whose job is to sort photos. It’s also their job to select photos for social media and for exhibitions. They selected based on the photos that gave a balanced view of where our adventures took us in 2015 and the conversations they accorded us. The selections cover all interests: people, wildlife, landscape, etc. We also wanted to showcase the different interest of OneTouch photographers in this exhibition… Documentary, Architecture, Wildlife, Macro, etc.

Is any of your featured photos particularly special to you?
MM: I don’t do very well with special or fave. When I pick one I remember another that I love. I never know when to pick based on the visual or story. It’s the hardest thing for me specifically.

Elephants walking to the swamp in Amboseli National Park. Photo credit OneTouch.

Elephants walking to the swamp in Amboseli National Park. Photo credit OneTouch.

Anyone who has followed OneTouch in social media and read blog posts by you guys knows that there are the most amazing stories and experiences linked to the photos. For someone who sees the photos for the first time at Alliance, how can they find out more?
MM: There are actually OneTouch members present every single day of the exhibition and they will be happy to share stories and give more information. Or you can check out our website to read blogs about our past trips.

Through the trips, OneTouch is becoming something of a celebration to road trips. And thanks to the amazing photography a very stunning such. Your own blog has amazing posts that share all the trials, tribulations and sensations that these adventures are made of. If you would summarize: what do you like about the trips with OneTouch?
MM: It’s a road trip. What’s not to like about road trips!!! Also, there’s nothing to be afraid of in a OneTouchLive trip when we are together. We roll through challenges without batting an eyelid. Even getting to campsites we don’t know at 2 am in the night.

(The image in the exhibition poster is from the OneTouch trip to Lake Magadi and Lake Natron. You can read more about this trip in this post by Mutua and also in this one. Naturally there are some rather amazing photos there. You may want to take a day off and just spend it with these two posts.)

The One Touch team at Fourteen Falls. Photo credit OneTouch.

The OneTouch team at Fourteen Falls. Photo credit OneTouch.

‘Beyond.’ opens on April 1, 2016, at Alliance Francaise in Nairobi and is open to the public until April 14th, 2016. Entrance to the exhibition is free.

All exhibited work is for sale and 30% of sales go to HungerFree.

THANK YOU MUTUA MATHEKA FOR TAKING THE TIME TO TALK! See you at the exhibition.

(Bonus info: for exhibition content, photo credits are OneTouch, not individual photographer. This is a deliberate choice as the team treats their exhibitions as a OneTouch team affair.)

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