The word Mtindo means “style” in Swahili, and also “movement.” For Waridi Schrobsdorff, if you put the two together you get style movers, a group of young creatives highlighted in the upcoming book she edited called “Mtindo — Rebranding Africa.” It combines vivid images taken in Nairobi by Italian photographer Daniele Tamagni, along with statements from independent filmmaker, artists, musicians, digital entrepreneurs, TV and radio hosts, furniture designers and fashion writers, who explain what style means to them.
Kenya-born, Berlin-based Schrobsdorff, is a former model turned African fashion expert. Through her various projects, including social business initiative Fashion Africa 254, or FA254, and the competition “African Designers for Tomorrow,” she’s been forging a link between Europe and Africa.
“I wanted to communicate more,” she explained at last week’s preview and exhibition of selected photographs from the book at Berlin’s Diehl Cube gallery.
“How can I communicate the other side of Africa – I always say the other side of the coin? So that people can see these young vibrant talents, not only in fashion — but creatives,” she said.
That goal lead Schrobsdorff to award-winning photographer Tamagni, who documented African vibrant fashion subcultures his books “Fashion Tribes” (2015) and “Gentlemen Of Bacongo,” which featured the Congolese dandies Sapeurs, whose colorful outfits have inspired several designers, including Paul Smith. “I became fascinated by the vibrancy, the diversity, but also the contradiction of Africa,” after first visiting in 2005, he said.
He was motivated to show a different, unexpected side of the region often ignored by the media, and was drawn to photograph street culture, style and identity.
The two collaborators had a shared vision, but also had to compromise. Tamagni, who has shot around the world, normally concentrates on people and urban settings. In Kenya, he had the chance to visit Nairobi National Park and photograph the wildlife there. Wanting to include these pictures in the book caused resistance from Schrobsdorff, who felt they were what people expected from images of Africa. After negotiating this point for six months, they agreed to close the book with one animal image, an artistic view of a zebra half hidden behind a spindly thorn bush. “I would have put more. But it’s a very stylish animal,” laughed Tamagni.
“Mtindo — Rebranding Africa” is published by Italian art book specialist Skira, and will officially go on sale May 2017.