Extroverted Behind the Lens
Many would deem introverts to be rather fragile. They need to be taken care of in social gatherings. One would work extra hard to be conscious of what they say or else, never hear from the introverted friend ever again. You are not to leave them out and you’re not to put them in awkward social situations either.
“My name is Aisha, born and raised in one of the largest slums in Kenya and I come from a marginalized community of Nubians.”She begins. Commanding presence. Her confidence fills the room. I mean, she has only started, yet I feel like she has mastered socialization. Introverts. They will always be a mystery to me.
She begins. Before she could proceed I ask her more about the tribe trying to understand how they became marginalized. She tells me that Kenya recognizes 43 tribes and they are part of other communities clumped up as the 43rd.
Representation is important. Otherwise, they would be stateless. I try to dig up more about the community from credible sources on the internet. From what I gathered, the Kenyan Nubians arrived from South Sudan and were among the first settlers in Kibra (to mean forest)while working for the British military. During the struggle for independence, they allied with Kenyans. The British in return failed to assist them in the requisition of the area.
Nubians have welcomed other Kenyan communities to stay with them in Kibera as they are trying to claim the land. Title deeds would mean justice finally served. Aisha’s parents introduced them to the world of books at an early age. You could tell that from her eloquence. Education being a basic human right, knowledge would be their weapons as they continue to fight for their sense of belonging.
The weather was rather wintry that morning. She had called in sick the previous day and then communicated that she would strive to show up that morning. We patiently waited as we busily basked in the cold and warmed up from burning firewood of laughter and excitement for the day. She arrives and she brightly smiles. Her smile was the brightest I had seen that morning. She is deeply infused with melanin. That could be assisting in beaming that smile.
A nude brown headscarf on her head and a classy brown trenchcoat to match. Very few can fashionably do justice to the cold weather. Many are affiliated with summer. As she takes the photos she removes the trenchcoat. No, it was not hotter. The mud was not worthy enough to touch the cloak. I guess, to easily focus as well. The black oxfords would warrant a standing ovation.
Aisha’s family comprises virtual artists. There is ease in seeing and translating it on paper. She would recognize the sibling’s drawing. Her teachers would recognize hers. With no one to hold her hand, she does not invest much time in it. During the lockdown, she was a volunteer at a project called Kibra Food Drive where they were delivering food to the interior of Kibera. For documentation, pictures were taken by her cousin.
“I asked my cousin if I could take a picture. At one go, he said I was a natural. Since I was looking into capturing real-time moments, I made further inquiries from him. “The answer is passion,” he says. That was his drive into being an autodidact of photography and so my journey behind the lens begins.
Currently, I am volunteering with Nivishe Foundation which deals with advocating for mental health. Nivishe means to cloth. The foundation clothes the community mentally, spiritually, and holistically. With my newly acquired photography skills, I thought it could be used to give back to the community. I help in documenting. You know, to give photographic pieces of evidence to the donors.
I am majorly involved in the community. Some spaces are coming up that are either women-led or the spaces are acting like safe spaces for the women in the community. The most available photographers were men. That made the ‘safe spaces’ appear less safe. Just like that, I identified the gap.”
A market was targeted. Although the youth and other people outside the community are in her market, she majored in photography for women by a woman. “My pictures are not circulating outside. They are stories that are not meant to be heard by the world. For instance, I sometimes shoot for Muslim bridal showers, their hair is not supposed to be seen. I, therefore, sought consent for what I have posted.”
“Do you have a name for your photography?” “Kiliga Photography is its name.” “Why Kiliga?” “My dad’s, may his soul rest in peace, the nickname used to be Kiliga. He was a man of the people. The name is unique. I discovered myself in art in the community. My biggest market comes from the community. People are drawn to the community. My photography, similarly to my dad, is of the people.”
“How is your social life?” “I would say I do not have one. I am introverted. I spend my time reading, listening to classical music, and coding.” Yes! Coding she has a degree in software engineering. Photography is the medium of her interaction. She is invited to events because of it. Built her social skills from it. She is extroverted behind the lens.
Aspire Productions inspires her photography. The cousin who was present in the food drive owns it. He is a living example of how interest and passion are enough to skillfully make progress. She happily narrates how patient he has been with her as she is continuously learning. His influence is what has got her where she is. When she has an independent shoot, he would generously lend her the tools she lacked. She proudly continues pouring out one praise after the other. The other alternative title for this narration would be “An Appreciation Post for The Cousin.”
Aisha is photogenic. She is called the model. The one thing that she wished she knew earlier is that a photo does not have to always have a story. It could be a moment captured or perfect capture meant to be just admired. She also wished she knew that she had the liberty of informing her clients about her editing style and letting them decide to go on or not. At last, she found her manumit in photography!
“No.” She laughs. “I don’t have a favorite,” she continues. “They are like my babies. If I have to pick a favorite then it would be Alphoso’s, my pet, picture.” Her current favorite lens is her 200mm zoom lens. Having a Nikon D850 among others is in her wildest dreams. She journeying there. She knows by putting herself out there would mean more connections and more experiences. That is quite an uphill task and for sure, the view would be better at the top.