Ten countries, 13 cities, 15,000 km in three months. That’s the challenge for four Kenyans, who want to change the way Africans see their own continent. In an epic road trip dubbed Unscrambling Africa, Mutua Matheka, Lulu Kitololo, Joe Were and Josh Kisamwa set out to capture the urban vibrancy of southern Africa. We caught up with them before they left.
Unscrambling Africa: what does it mean?
Lulu: It’s a reference to the Scramble for Africa [the colonial partition of the continent]. We want to look at the commonalities across borders, change people’s perception that we are so different, and that it’s so difficult to travel. We want to erase those boundaries. Joe: Scrambling was about separation, unscrambling is about uniting.
But that’s not all of it, is it?
Mutua: Information about Africa comes mostly from a Western perspective. When the majority of news you get is from a Western eye, it influences the way you see yourselves. Africans should tell their own stories. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about the lens through which you see things. I know people are not trying to push a view but it’s so ingrained. It’s always ‘this place is so beautiful despite…’, or ‘how knowledgeable they are despite…’. It’s never: ‘I went to the school and they were so bright.’ Period. The kid walking to school doesn’t know it’s a disadvantage. That’s his life.
What about African perceptions of their own continent?
Lulu: My parents are really anxious because of how they imagine what these other countries look like. They imagine it will be rough. I keep explaining that we’re going to the urban areas, where it’s more developed. Josh: Some get it straight away. Others say: ‘Are you getting paid?’ No, that’s not what it’s about. It’s about getting on the road. Travelling gets rid of misconceptions.
Has it been challenging to prepare for the trip?
Mutua: Most blogs [written by foreigners] don’t have enough information about getting a car across a border. It’s about if the car is equipped, or if there are rebellions along the way. They’re learning how to duck and roll when you should be learning how many papers to sign. [Laughs]
Lulu: All this bureaucracy is because it doesn’t happen often. The more people who do it will make it easier
All those countries.. Any worries?
Joe: Running out of money. It’s happened before. Sometimes we turned back, sometimes we called home. Mutua: Before, it was funding. Now I’m afraid I won’t get the content necessary to make a cognitive story. I get overwhelmed with new places, which is why I don’t like travelling in a rush.
What kind of stories are you looking for?
Josh: I want to see how people live, hear their take on their country, show Africans in a different light. Of course we know about the savannahs and the wildlife, but I want to look for beauty in urban spaces. One thing is clear: the four of us are just trying to discover Africa for Africans as Africans.
The four will visit Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Follow the trip on Instagram @UnscramblingAfrica, Twitter @UnscramblAfrica