N: Hey there! I'm absolutely thrilled to have you guys featured in this interview. So, let's dive right in. How did the four of you meet and what led to the creation of Urban Pitchaz? And could you give us a glimpse into the activities that your collective engages in?
U: Urban Pitchaz is a collective of 4 contemporary artists based in Nairobi, Kenya that major in Fashion Photography & Fashion Film.
3 of us (Edwin, Okang’a & Jordan) met back in campus while Ali was introduced to us by Edwin since they were already friends.
The group’s formation organically happened after a series of collaborations i.e. “UANI” & “UHURU PARK” which were well received by the public hence realizing that we shared a lot in common and had similar goals therefore pushing us to working together on more projects. The group was officially formed in July, 2019.
N: I love how you use styling, photography, and film to weave visual stories that showcase the beauty and intrigue of Kenyan culture and society. There's also a vintage flair in your work, with a particular emphasis on the eras between the 70s and 90s. Can you share why you're drawn to those time periods? Is there also anything interesting that you can share about Kenyan history during those years for those who may not be familiar?
U: We are mostly drawn into 90s and a little bit of 80s styling since we were all born in the 90s. That’s how our parents dressed us... how people around us dressed growing up and also some influence from our big bros who grew up in the 80s. We also grew up watching music videos both local & international which greatly influenced us too. But there is always a modern touch just to stay relevant and spice it all up.
N: I want to learn more about the cultural scene in Nairobi. Where do creatives usually come together in the city? What sort of activities do they enjoy doing, and what's their go-to hangout spot? Furthermore, is there something about the Nairobi lifestyle that sets it apart from other places in Africa?
U: The cultural scene among the youths has transformed tremendously in the last couple of years. Fashion brands, art collectives, music, events/festivals and most importantly the Matatu Culture have been in the forefront of this all. Fashion pop-ups and curated parties at spaces such as Studio 18, The Alchemist, The Mist and Nairobi Street Kitchen have become a go to for anyone who wants to experience the city’s creative scene.We also have some large thrift markets within Nairobi e.g Gikomba & Toi which have made sourcing of clothes more easy and affordable. This has in no doubt influenced people’s way of fashion and style.
The Matatu culture in Nairobi is also very unique to us. From the artistic graffiti artworks, the loud music, all the way to the fashionable drivers and conductors have all played a big role in influencing the culture from generation to generation over the years.
N: Your photo series, HUSTLE ZA MTAA, aims to celebrate the hardworking individuals who often go unnoticed for their dedication to their crafts. I'm curious about how creative hustles are perceived in Kenyan society. We recently interviewed an artist from Lagos who was telling us how in Nigeria society only "reputable" hustles, like becoming a doctor or lawyer are respected. Do you encounter similar challenges in Kenya? Could you shed some light on this?
U: Yes. Unfortunately that’s quite the same situation here.In Kenya, being a creative for the longest time wasn’t perceived to be good enough to be a well-paying job or at least a main job.
It was always just a side thing. So most of the parents would tell their children to stay focused on the books rather than embrace their talents. But today, things are changing and creatives are slowly beginning to get the appreciation and respect they deserve hence the society is starting to see it as a career.
N: It's always inspiring to hear about projects that hold a special place in someone's heart. Is there one particular project that you guys are exceptionally proud of? And on a lighter note, what's something you would love to explore or try out in the future?
U: We are proud of all our projects since we are always telling stories about our culture and people- so they all mean a lot to us. But the projects we did in our early stages that made us realize our potential, stay on course and keep going, forever hold special places in our hearts like Fela Suti, Uhuru park, Mazoezi...In the future, we would like to continue telling our stories via exhibitions, garments and objects and just dive into lifestyle generally.