When I ask Mutua Matheka about his Instagram handle, he chuckles. “It’s nothing really,” he says, his voice full of mirth.
But then he launches into an explanation: the year was 2010, and he had joined practically every social media platform there was. Captivated by a song lyric and unwilling to use his real name, he modified the lyric as a moniker — it eventually evolved into a personal principle.
The handle? Truth slinger.
“It keeps me real in what I do and what I say,” he admits. This authenticity is immediately apparent from the thoughtful and earnest way he speaks.
This quest for authenticity is not a recent development. Though he was initially trained as an architect, Mutua was inspired by the free-thinking artists he met while completing an internship in Germany. Their lack of constraint and joyful creativity resonated with Mutua, who soon abandoned architecture in favor of graphic design.
He purchased a camera to try and sell stock photos, but soon realized that he experienced a similar feeling of freedom when he looked through his camera’s viewfinder.
Seven years later, that perspective helps him to continue to sling his truth.
Camera in tow, he has navigated the African continent, visiting countless countries and cities, consciously using his camera to remain present in a new place while he records its sights, colors, and overall vibe. Naturally gregarious, but fueled by a dislike of portraits, Mutua photographs street scenes and landscapes — which is, in its own right, a sort of abstract form of portraiture, a glimpse at the hearts of cities.
His travels around Africa have, in turn, informed his perspective of it. That, coupled with the longstanding repercussions of the scramble for Africa (a colonial-era power play intended to divide Africans along geographical boundaries) has led to a new project: “Unscrambling Africa.”
Unification lies at the heart of the project. Mutua notes that the continent is not made for transparency, that Africans have trouble visiting neighboring countries without jumping through hoops, and that media coverage of the continent is largely informed by Western perspectives.
“We want people in Johannesburg to know more about people in Nairobi. We want people in Malawi to know more about those in Lesotho,” he says, adding that he wanted to see cityscapes from Nairobi and Kampala crop up as often as the ubiquitous shots of New York or Dubai.
Noticing a dearth in coverage of Africans actively exploring their own continent led him to publicize his travels — his Instagram account is, essentially, an attempt at equal representation.
Traveling through Africa has introduced Mutua to a distinctly African aesthetic — futuristic, colorful, culture-rich. A diversity of people — friendly, warm, ever-curious. A host of cities — unique, bustling, thriving. And, on top of all that, a desire for authenticity.
It’s the perfect quest for a truth slinger.