Photographer Ike Edeani shows the beauty of Africa through the use of natural light and a sense of intimacy based on his own journey through Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Karibu Tena, was shot during a chaotic journey over four weeks visiting remote communities, schools and meeting wonderful people along the way. Ike was born and raised Nigeria and is now based in New York where he works as a photographer.

Are you a self-taught photographer?

Yes, I moved to the US in 1999 for college in Ohio and I went to architecture school. In 2011, I started getting serious about photography, and my first ever assignment was in May 2013 for Dwell Magazine, based in San Francisco at the time.

Why did you make the move from architecture to photography?

I love architecture, but photography is much closer to how I wanted to express myself. As an architect I was really interested in graphic design and over time I realized it didn’t come naturally to me and I didn’t quite enjoy it as much as I thought I would. When I started taking photos, I really enjoyed it, and the more I do it, the more I love it.

Do you think those other disciplines inform your photography?

Yeah, in a lot of ways. Obviously there are visual elements in all of those practices. Architecture makes me think about the way I compose conceptually and the way I process things. In graphic design it becomes more about the colors and light, and then that becomes part of the photography – it just happens.

 What is the meaning of Karibu Tena?

Karibu Tena is basically Swahili for ‘welcome back’. The project came about when I travelled last year with a friend from a non-profit to East Africa. The organization is called Mama Hope and they help fund projects around Africa like schools, farms, orphanages and health clinics. During that time, I was also taking photos for myself.

So what was your photo-project about?

I think for me it was more about documenting my journey and being in those rural areas reminded me of home in Nigeria. I grew up in the city, but my parents grew up in the rural areas and I spent time there visiting my grandmother. There was a sense of nostalgia in all of that. I just wanted to capture what was going on around me.

All in four weeks?

I think the project is also a bit chaotic in a way because of the way we were travelling. We were moving non-stop, I don’t think we stopped for more than three days anywhere. We took six different planes, eight different buses and cars. So part of it was photographing the chaos and the changing landscapes, colors and so on. Also, the relationships between those countries and what they felt like. I really didn’t have time to have a consistent narrative of a story – it comes across as passing through these places, which is accurate.


Within the chaos, what was your most memorable moment?

It was in Kenya, a few days after we got there.  We were in this Masai settlement and there was a dust storm going on. I was photographing some of the women that were there and I had my back to the storm. Then, my friend padded me in the shoulder, and I turned around and was dust spiral that looked like a tornado. It was amazing.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from the kids you photographed?

They don’t really take things for granted, they are so happy. When I heard their stories, I thought about how strong their spirit is, they don’t really dwell on the bad things. They are just excited to be in school and they do so well.

Are you planning on going again to Africa?

I would like to, especially to Tanzania. I really enjoyed my time there, Kilimanjaro is beautiful, and is a bit more open to photography. As a photographer I don’t really want to be in a place that I offend people by trying to take pictures

Article by: Laura Rodriguez Castro