Fascinated by Kenya through an app

2015-11-23 16:29
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Fascinated by Kenya through a smartphone app

In another city and country the simplest of sights and sounds can pique one’s interest, more so when the surroundings are of a rich culture and heritage.

Nairobi, Kenya - In another city and country the simplest of sights and sounds can pique one’s interest, more so when the surroundings are of a rich culture and heritage. 

As any artist or creative would agree the ambience of a new setting is enough to act as a muse and canvas for a masterpiece. 

On a recent trip to Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, the thought of spending time in a new city excited me. With eyes open wide, all I wanted was to explore this new world, just a stone’s throw away from my motherland and yet promising to offer a richer “African experience”.

Nairobi welcomes all with a warm smile and glowing accents, including the people from Google Kenya, who opened their home to a small group of South African, and a larger group of Nigerian journalists — to show how Google apps could be used as a traveller’s companion.

However, this particular tour did more than just that. It became more of an eye-opener, which unlocked hidden talents and provoked the mind into thinking beyond just the plain black and white of being a tourist. 

On the first day of the trip, friends at Google briefed journalists about the apps before we made our way on a guided tour of the city’s highlights. 

Before the first point of interest, a team leader from Google South Africa announced that there would be a prize for the best photo taken on the trip.

Having studied art in high school years ago, learnt photography in three lessons as a rebel student at university and with a deep analysis of a very amateurish Instagram feed, my goal on the trip was to take better photos to make my profile on the photo-sharing social network slightly prettier. 

It helped that I was as fascinated by the city as a baby by a dangling mobile. The first stopping point was a vantage point which overlooked Mount Longonot, a dormant volcano. Here everyone was standing in the same position — everyone was going to get the same picture. Albeit a serene and picturesque setting, the scenery could only be captured in one way, hence I had my turn but was not satisfied with the outcome.

A short drive later, the smallest church in Kenya — Mai Mahiu.

Here was some inspiration — statuettes of Jesus stood in front of the nativity scene. The picture was obvious.

The next stop was the Kiambethu Tea Farm, in which journalists were invited into Fiona Vernon’s venerable homestead. Rays of light filtered into the room, lighting the face of Helene Barrot from Google in France. The next picture was right here in the cottage.

Color Pop is a fun app available for smartphones, but it does require time and patience to “pop”, or isolate the colour of a single object in an image. Vernon’s tea leaf made the perfect object to “pop”. So it was done and so ended the first day of exploration.

The second day required an early start and promised a plethora of photo opportunities — a game drive through Nairobi’s National Park, a wildlife photographer’s dream.

Inspiration radiated from the vast plains and terrains of the park. At every head turn a majestic creature waited to pose as a model for my Instagram feed, and so once again it was done. 

By now, I felt as though my very small following on the social network may have been nauseated by #GoogleInNairobi posts; however, I only found that the likes on my images had increased exponentially from my previous posts of supercars, tech and filleted steaks.

The David Sheldrick Wildlife Orphan Trust, a haven for orphaned elephants, proved to be a photographer’s dream. 

Clumsy elephants with tantrums were not the only subjects begging for an Instagram post, but I found something more than restored my faith in humanity. 

A group of local school children, very excited to see the creatures, clogged their school shoes with layer upon layer of mud that was quickly drying. 

Some managed to create enough layers, transforming their Toughee-like shoes to platforms reminiscent of those worn by the Spice Girls in the nineties. 

As mischievous as it was, seemingly only a nightmare for the teachers who escorted them there, the children began to do something remarkable.

Each child, without adult guidance, picked up a stick and began, cleaning the mud off the shoes of their peers. 

Without a sign each bent down as a service to a friend expecting nothing in return — this was not just a picture, this was a message that needed to be shared.

Of course, the inspiration didn’t end there. There was more. Nairobi cried out to have every last strand of hair immortalised in an image and so it was done. 

The experience culminated at the top of the Kenya Convention Centre where the bustling city was seen in a single glance. 

Just then Dorothy Ooko of Google Kenya announced to the gathered journalists: “Who do you think won the photo competition?”, unanimously the crowd, to my surprise, said my name. 

And like that, Nariobi the supermodel in my mind’s studio, who begged for me to explore her, rewarded me. 

I won the photo competition and was given the fitting prize of a piece of artwork I had unknowingly “popped” in a photo I took earlier. 

While Instagram is an app that doesn’t require much to make the most novice of photographers capture the most amazing images through heavily edited filters and lens blurs, in the same breath the scenery and ideas behind each photo forced one to work towards creating that much of a better photo. 

• See the full Instagram feed here: 


• Follow @KyleVenktess on Twitter.

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