Kenyan takes top award in East African photography

Elsie Ayoo, 16, a young ballet dancer in Kibera, Nairobi. This is one of Brian Otieno’s photos in his award-winning series titled "Kibera: Stories From Within". PHOTO | BRIAN OTIENO

What you need to know:

  • Another photojournalist, who works with Daily Monitor newspaper, Alex Esagala, won the grand prize for his image titled ‘Makerere Student Protests’.

Kenyan photographer Brian Otieno has won the inaugural East African Photography Award for his photo series titled “Kibera: Stories From Within.” The award is hosted by the Uganda Press Photo Award (UPPA) .

Otieno, who was not able to attend the awards ceremony held at The Square in Kampala on October 18, received a Canon EOS 80D camera with an EF 18-135mm lens.

“Kibera, where I was born and raised, is a vast slum settlement located in Nairobi, Kenya. Kibera has thousands of stories to be told,” Otieno says.

“From afar, the neighbourhood is a dense jungle of rundown corrugated rooftops, indistinguishable shacks huddled closely together with television antennas and electricity poles projecting into the air. Kibera, however, is hardly a continuous cycle of poverty and hardship that has always been the dominant visual narrative. Within its ever-sprawling and captivating landscapes, Kibera is a mix of diversity, vibrancy and great capabilities”.

According to Otieno, his project “presents life in Kibera from a socio-economic, cultural, political and environmental point of view, as seen from an insider’s perspective.

Through these images, we see and feel dynamic moments of everyday life, identity and individuality, and the uniqueness of representation in moments always seen but often ignored or unnoticed.”

Another photojournalist, who works with Daily Monitor newspaper, Alex Esagala, won the grand prize for his image titled ‘Makerere Student Protests’.

Esagala’s winning photo shows police officers arresting the Makerere University Guild President, Papa Were, and a colleague at Makerere University during student’s protests on April 16.

The students were protesting a range of changes to university services, including the scrapping of meals in halls of residence, the suspension of evening classes and increases in tuition fees.

Esagala received a professional camera, the Canon EOS 5D Mark III, which came with an EF 24-105mm lens.

Accepting the award, Esagala, said: “On that day it was not easy taking this photograph. There was a lot of tear gas and running. Police continue to violate the rights of peaceful protestors. I call upon the police to stop this.”

The Environment award went to a photo titled ‘Unofficial Garbage Collector’ by Badru Katumba.

Katumba’s image shows a marabou stork standing atop a heap of refuse at the Kiteezi landfill and waste disposal site in Kampala. Due to the abundance of uncollected food waste, marabou storks are found all over Kampala where they serve as the city’s unofficial garbage collectors.

Moses Lemisa won the Urban category for his picture titled ‘Risky’, which shows children using a makeshift bridge to cross a filthy water drainage channel in Kikoni, Makerere III, in Kampala.


Many neighbourhoods in Kampala are constructed informally, and open drainage is widely used to manage waste as well as the heavy water flows that occur during the rainy season, but these wide channels brimming with contaminated outflows pose hazards for the dwellers as well being as breeding grounds for disease.

The Sport award was won by Richard Sanya for his photo ‘The Fall.’ Sanya’s image captured Silva Chelangat of Uganda landing in a water hazard during the National Athletics Women’s 3,000 metre steeplechase trials at the Mandela National Stadium, Namboole in Kampala on February 24. Athletes were putting the finishing touches to their training ahead of the 21st Commonwealth Games which were held in the Gold Coast, Australia.

The People award went to Timothy Latim for his photo ‘The Guide’, that captured Christine, a tour guide on duty in Mgahinga Gorilla national park in south western Uganda.

Jibril Kwizera won the Young Photographer Award. He received a Canon EOS 1300D with an EF 18-55mm lens and will participate in a seven-month mentorship programme and exhibit his works during the UPPA 2019.

The annual Winner’s Exhibition is being held at The Square in Kampala until November 18.