A Q&A with
photographer Mutua Matheka.
IBM opened its twelfth global lab, and first in Africa on November 8. Located at the
Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi,
Kenya, it is the first commercial
technology research facility on the continent. The lab brings together scientists and research engineers
from some of the world's best universities, most from the African diaspora. Together
they will conduct applied and far-reaching exploratory research to help
solve real world problems – in Africa, for Africa
and, ultimately, for the world.
To celebrate the launch of the new lab and highlight these
challenges and opportunities, IBM Research – Africa
is hosting The World is Our
Lab Photo Contest. Entries
are invited from all over Africa, and will
fall into three main categories: African
Grand Challenges, African City
Systems and African Innovation.
images are captured on a camera phone or professional camera, participants have
the chance to win a visit IBM's new research lab in Nairobi and receive a photography workshop with
leading African photographer Mutua Matheka who is also one of the judges of the
Mutua is well known for
his images of Africa’s urban and natural
beauty. He talks about everything from his love of photography, to the impact
of technology on African society.
Tell us about your background. How did you get into
photography, and what work of yours was your "big break" that made
you one of Africa's prominent photographers?
In the fifth year of
my undergraduate studies for a degree in architecture, I started to get interested
in photography. Once as I finished my studies I bought a camera with my first
paycheck and starting taking photos. In 2010, a friend took me to the helipad
of one of Nairobi's
most iconic buildings – the Kenyatta International Conference Centre – and the
view of city I saw was too breathtaking to ignore. I fell in love with my city.
Those images of Nairobi are what people noticed about me and soon I was
known as “that guy who takes Nairobi
What is the most exciting thing about being a
photographer in Africa?
Being a photographer
in Africa offers interesting opportunities.
For one, nothing stays the same for very long, so what I shoot today might be
different tomorrow. I find that exciting.
People here are both
friendly and suspicious of photographers, so we have a hard task of proving
ourselves everyday. But it’s not a task I mind.
What are some of the challenges of being a photographer
The challenges of
being a photographer in Africa are many but
one is simply being accepted, understood and respected by authorities and
society at large.
misunderstand our intentions, which can make it especially hard to take photos
architecture for example. We still need laws to protect photographers in the field,
and to protect our intellectual property.
Many of your photos are of Africa's
cities. What attracts you to them?
When the world
visualizes Africa, it often comes up with
images of poverty, disease, wild life and native tribes. I am very proud of a
lot of those too, but we sometimes forget that Africa is home to a myriad of
intriguing and beautiful urban spaces and cities – with people aspiring to the
same things as they do all over the world.
I like capturing these
shots because it's not what is on the fore front of people's minds when they
think Africa. And I want my photos of African
cities to show the inspirational side of our continent.
What in your mind is still Africa's
Africa's biggest challenge to me is its lack of systems.
We need simple ones to make things work – and then stick to the systems.
How do you think technology can help solve these
challenges -- and propel Africa into a more prosperous
opens up opportunities and, in a way, changes the status quo. The beauty of
technology is that it can help us identify ways to do things in shorter periods
of time more efficiently. It also connects people and demystifies complicated
Work in Africa
addition to submitting your photos, why not your resume as well?
is looking for talented scientists to join its newest lab in Nairobi, Kenya
to solve some of the continent's greatest challenges.
Join us on 5 December for a virtual job
fair in Google + and the IBM SmartCloud. For more details, visit IBM Africa Job Fair
Across the continent, Africa
has a large youth population. What kinds of opportunities are out there for
young people in Africa, and how can they take
advantage of them?
The best thing about
being young in Africa now is the huge
opportunity before us. With the right ideas and a few connections, you can be
creative and make anything into a viable business in Africa,
If you can spot an
opportunity in the market and have the right “get up and go” about you, the
opportunities are endless.
How popular is photography in Africa?
Photography is becoming increasingly popular across Africa.
With a rising middle class, many people are starting to invest in photography
as a hobby. On the other hand, Africa is the
world's fastest growing market for smartphones – more and more people are getting
interested in photography through their phones and wanting to share the things
they see through social media. This all means that we have seen a huge surge of
interest in photography over the past couple of years and this is set to
As a judge of IBM's Africa Photo Contest, what
will you look for in the submissions?
Photography is the
power of observation. As a judge, I shall be looking for bold, creative photos
that help to tell Africa's story, or show a
unique perspective: the other side of the coin; the unheard narrative. I am
sure I will not be bored.
What advice do you have for those aspiring photographers
entering the contest?
participants to be observant and see the content’s stories around them. Think
about Africa's grand challenges brought to life through a personal story; think
about how systems are the lifeblood of cities and how home-grown innovation is
bring new hope, efficiency and prosperity to the continent.
Why did you want to get involved in this initiative?
It sounded like
something I wanted to be part of. I am happy that IBM is doing something so
innovative in Africa – with the lab and with
this competition. I do believe that the world really is our lab and I hope that
by taking these photos, our eyes are opened to these issues and innovations.
Submit your photos, today.
Labels: grand challenge, ibm research - Africa, Kenya, Nairobi, photography, smarter cities