Kibera, where I was born and raised, is a vast slum settlement located in Nairobi, Kenya. It is said to be home to between 350,000 and 1 million people, depending on who you ask. This has given rise to its reputation as “the largest slum in Africa”. But behind these vague statistics, Kibera has thousands of stories to be told.
From afar the neighborhood is a dense jungle of rundown corrugated rooftops, indistinguishable huts huddled closely together with TV antennas and electricity poles projecting into the air. While Kibera is hardly a continuous cycle of poverty and hardship, that has always been the dominant visual narrative.
But within its ever-sprawling and captivating landscapes, Kibera is a mix of diversity, vibrancy and great capabilities. This project presents life in Kibera from a socio-economic, cultural, political and environmental point of view, as seen from an insider’s perspective.
Through these images, we see and feel dynamic moments of everyday life, identity, and individuality, and the uniqueness of representation in moments always seen but often ignored or unnoticed.
Brian Otieno is a freelance photojournalist and documentary photographer based in Nairobi, Kenya. He was raised in Kibera, where he documents the everyday realities of ordinary life through his photo project called KiberaStories, which he started in 2013. His passion and commitment lie in capturing the stories of the vibrant community of Kibera and attempting to look beyond the chaotic appearance of his hometown and depict a broader spectrum of life from socio-economic, cultural, political and environmental perspectives.
Brian exhibited his project KiberaStories in Paris (October 2018), Kampala (October 2018), Lisbon (January 2019) and New York (March 2019). He was also a participant in the 16th International Dialogue on Population and Sustainable Development which took place in Berlin in October 2018, presenting his collection of photographs “Women of Kibera”, taken as part of the EU-funded #RightByHer campaign, which works across Africa to make women’s rights a reality.
Brian was among the 12 visual storytellers selected for the World Press Photo East Africa Masterclass which took place in Nairobi in 2016. In March 2019, he was selected to attend the New York Times Portfolio Review. Since 2017, he has been a contributor to Everyday Africa – a collective of photographers sharing images from across the continent aimed at undermining stereotypes and clichés. A professional photographer since 2016, Brian has balanced his documentary work with assignments for international publications and development organizations. He works regularly for Agence France-Presse and has contributed visual stories to media outlets including The New York Times, Al Jazeera, BBC, Der Spiegel, and Roads & Kingdoms.
Brian’s KiberaStories won the inaugural East African Photography Award held in Kampala on October 2018 with “Ballerina Elsie” photography. He was a winner in the Feature Stories category at the Kenya Press Photo Awards in 2017 and in the Daily Life and Portraiture categories at the Kenya Photography Awards in 2018. In August 2019, Brian was selected as a recipient for the Reuters Photojournalism Grant.