With images striking for their beauty and the incredible access and trust they represent, photographer Bobby Pall’s new book Vanishing Songs of the Warriors is a stunning documentation of life in remote Kenyan communities. Pall, in partnership with Nikon Kenya, launched the book at an exclusive event held at Village Market on Thursday.
Pall’s close friends and family mingled with guests from Nairobi’s artistic and diplomatic communities at the celebration, which in addition to showcasing his current work highlighted the photographer’s long-held commitment to documenting and improving Kenyan lives.
Surrounded by Pall’s works, presented in vivid colour in contrast to the black and white versions published in the book, guests heard of his contributions to Kenya from several prominent speakers. Education Cabinet Secretary Amina Mohammed delivered the keynote address, and noted the friendship she has enjoyed with Pall over a number of years.
“It’s a depiction of beauty, of strength, of depth, of dignity, of truth, and the values of people united by land and culture,” Mohammed said of the book, explaining that she was likely one of the first people to see it. “Our people have suffered the colonisation of diversity and minimalisation of a way of life that goes beyond material wealth to the breadth and depth of the human heart…Bobby’s work is a systematic and beautiful account of the ordinary lives of some of the most extraordinary communities in modern day East Africa.”
Also speaking at the launch was His Excellency Erasmo Martinez, the Mexican Ambassador to Kenya. Martinez described a close relationship with Pall and his wife, Xochitl, who delivered an inspired recitation of a poem from the book.
“He’s a person very much interested in humanity, in people and in his own country,” Martinez said of Pall. “I immediately felt a very good connection with him and I realised that we both share the same love of this country and its people. For me it has been a real privilege to have met him and I really admire his work.”
Pall, a prominent figure in Kenya’s photography scene and long-time Nikon user, explained that his inspiration for the collection came from several projects that he had worked on in the past that involved photographing Kenyan communities. He noted the joy he felt in learning about their cultures and a dismay over their slow erosion.
“I was assigned to do a project in Meru, and they introduced me to this tribe, the Borana,” Pall said. “They were dancing the ostrich courtship dance, and I think it was a dance to buy my heart. Trust me – they did. So I went back again to do this project, only to realise, ‘Who is really talking about where we come from?’ Because if these walls could speak they would tell us, and the skies have no recollection. Someone’s got to write and someone’s got to document.”
Nikon was proud to sponsor the event, and Nikon East and Central Africa Business Development Manager Sunny Sharma explained our commitment to helping Kenyan photographers tell Kenyan stories. He explained that when Nikon began to focus on Africa, it started its efforts in Kenya. Sharma also highlighted efforts to promote the country’s photography culture, like Nikon School, a programme that offers free classes to Nikon photographers.
Many of the event speakers commented on Pall’s reputation for philanthropy and inclusiveness, which was on display even in the organisation of the event. Ten volunteers from Deaf Haven and Essence of Quality, including people with hearing, visual and physical impairments, worked at the event and were able to learn about photography and the project, as well as bring awareness to their organisations and capabilities. This was made possible by the dedication of Deaf Haven Director Silvia Muturi and Essence of Quality Director and USIU Professor Dr. Dashanaba King. Dr. King shared master of ceremony duties at the event with Lead Africa Foundation Director Peter Ondeng.
Vanishing Songs of the Warriors is published by Footprints Press and is the culmination of many years of work. Pall’s friends and peers were eager to celebrate his skill and dedication, and to acknowledge the passion that has lead to his success. Njoki Muhoho, of Working Smart Skills Ltd., introduced Pall at the event and praised his character and his inherent talent.
“I think God must have realised, ‘These human beings are forgetting to notice and admire what I’ve given them,’” she said, “So he gave us Bobby and a Nikon camera.”
Visit Bobby Pall’s studio at Village Market and his Facebook page to learn more about his works and get your copy of Vanishing Songs of the Warriors. Learn more about Nikon School here and follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more updates from Kenya’s photography community.