US photographer Makena Mambo returns to her roots for her latest project, capturing the vibrant, colourful chaos of Nairobi, Nakuru, Narok, Mombasa and Kilifi.

US photographer Makena Mambo returns to her roots for her latest project, capturing the vibrant, colourful chaos of Nairobi, Nakuru, Narok, Mombasa and Kilifi.

Capturing the raw essence and beauty of Kenya was truly a life-changing journey for me, as it was an opportunity to travel back to my roots for the first time in my life. Although I was aware of the current political and economic corruption that taints the country, the hustle of the people and indescribable beauty of the landscapes felt like magic to me.

Being a child of immigrant parents, raised in the US, it was imperative for me to experience just a small piece of their life. I stayed in the same village they grew up in, and listening to the stories of their youth from family members. It strengthened my appreciation of the life I have today.

Unlike the average tourist,  I was meeting and living with my extended family, who stretch across different cities in Kenya, including Nairobi, Nakuru, Narok, Mombasa and Kilifi. I was submerged in authentic environments, and documenting the lives of the local people.

Being taken to these locations made me realise what it takes to keep going in life amidst struggles and hardships. Kenyans are diligent and creative with their entrepreneurship; whether it be selling goods such as fruits, clothes, souvenirs and jewellery in the middle of the streets while dodging speeding traffic, to the dense marketplaces, the boda-boda motorbike taxis. Even the hand-carved wooden furniture sold on the side of the road left me in awe of the craftsmanship.

Although there are still so many places that my eyes and camera have yet to capture, I felt enriched knowing my solo journey to connect with my heritage continues to shape my mindset and passion for storytelling. It helped me understand and absorb all the emotions, colours, sights and smells that are all distinctive to a place and the people.

See more of Makena Mambo’s work on her official website, or follow her on Instagram.

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