Brian Otieno

The Gentlemen of Kibera

In 2013, I started to document my neighbourhood – Kibera, a large slum in Nairobi, Kenya. My lenses often pause on what is for me the soul of this bustling community: its youth.

Kenya’s urban youth born and raised in informal and low-income settlements have to cope with a myriad of challenges, from stigmatization to economic deprivation. Yet, the slums are places of enterprise, innovation, creativity, and determination.

Dressed in stylish suits, colourful ties, hats, and leather shoes, four young men in Kibera have formed the “Vintage Empire” – a personal, social, and political statement; proof of diverse journeys and multiple realities they experience and contribute to shaping.

For them, fashion isn’t just about wearing nice clothes. It is their way of reclaiming, reappropriating, and reinventing their own identity, their unique voice and place in society.

Brian Otieno is deeply committed to sharing stories from his community and his country that rarely make it into the international news. Since 2013, Brian has dedicated his time and energy to bring to light the unseen side of his hometown – Kibera often portrayed as a place of poverty, violence, and disease. Through his project Kibera Stories, he focuses his lenses on a broader spectrum of life where hope, resilience, ambition and a sense of community prevail. Brian is committed to depolarizing and humanizing the traditional narrative that distorts how underprivileged communities are perceived and defined.

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