Kenyan photographer Osborne Macharia has a knack for capturing underground (and wholly fictional) scenes. His series of hip-hop grandpas proved so realistic that his Instagram followers have asked where they can download the subjects’ tracks.
Now, Macharia is at it again, this time documenting the (again fictional) fight club Mengo, in the heart of Nairobi, with its roster of short-statured fighters.
Macharia’s fight club is set in an abandoned warehouse in Kenya’s capital, where the city’s ultimate fighters converge every month to engage in illegal bloodsport.
The characters make up a motley crew. There’s Dudus, a female wrestler who has been in the ring since the age of 10 (she’s the current reigning champion). She defends her title armed with a sling shot and a keen eye. Meanwhile wizened veteran Mangalitos, the only fighter to have held all championship titles, defends his legacy with specialist move the Spinning Back Ng’oto, using a chain attached to his foot.
‘We wanted to bring a sense of glory’
Macharia’s latest creation is another fantastical narrative from the conceptual photographer, weaving together a rich story we almost want to believe is true.
His composite photographs, captured in a studio and on location before being digitally stitched together, have been his pet project for over a year, one he returns to when he’s not pursuing commercial ventures or winning prizes at the Cannes Lions.
But this isn’t a project playing fast and loose with its interesting subjects: there’s a message behind it too.