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Unscrambling Africa – An Update | Mutua Matheka

Unscrambling Africa – An Update

If you’re new here, this “previously on Unscrambling Africa” is for you.

Three years ago an idea took root in my brain and grew into a plan to photograph all African cities. See, I photograph Nairobi city and have done so for the past 6 years. It has given me an immense appreciation for this city and given me a strong desire to see other African cities and meet people in those cities to see for myself and document, that others may also see. I have always felt that this continent was misrepresented in the photos I see or rather represented in a very one-sided manner. One that emphasized poverty, decease & wildlife over urbanity, progress & growth.

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The team & I are so grateful for all the people showing support and encouraging us through the process of getting this project on the road and putting your energy, time, money, thoughts into this project. We are and continue to be very grateful. This is a little update on how things currently are.

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Last week on the 10th was supposed to be a departure date for Unscrambling Africa. A road trip that is the first phase of this mission to document African urbanity. As things sometimes happen, we did not leave. We still haven’t.

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Here’s the good;

We have our South African visas with us.

Thanks to you guys fully funding our project on Kickstarter, we have the funds to do the project and print the books and post cards.

The route is all set thanks to Joe. We’re driving around 15,000km for 10 weeks to 13 cities in Southern Africa.

We have all our shooting locations and accommodation set. We’re mostly camping because camping is awesome and gets us as close to the action as possible while being really cheap(er). Also, camping gets us sleeping next to lakes, come on. This must sound awesome even to you notorious non-campers.

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The team has grown a little to 6 people in total and 2 vehicles. At least Luanda will have a travel buddy.

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Do you know what you need to travel with a car around the continent? I’ll try to be brief.

  • The vehicle you drive must be registered in your name (so the log book is in your name) or you have to get a letter from the person whom the car is registered to. This letter authorizes you to drive the car across the border. So basically, you have to have the original logbook.
  • An International Driving Permit (this is available from AA Kenya) for a minumum of kes3,840 ($40)
  • COMESA Insurance for the period you will be away from the country. This can be acquired at the border while exiting (It’s actually cheaper there).
  • Temporary Import Permit from KRA (Kenya Revenue Authority). This is acquired by depositing your original logbook either at the Border of exit or at the KRA offices before you depart. This will be required at every border crossing. They basically ensure you don’t sell the car wherever you go.
  • Carnet Passage en Douane. This is required for countries that aren’t part of the Commonwealth (like Mozambique & Namibia, but mostly Mozambique). One of the most ridiculous requirements for this Carnet is the depositing of an amount (of money) equal to the value of the car at your bank so that they give you a Bank guarantee for you to get the Carnet (it’s refundable once you come back with the car, of course). Good thing is some insurance companies will cover this Carnet fee, for a fee, AA included.
  • In terms of personal documents, you will need your passport, with at least 6 pages free (I only have 4. Yikes), proof of accommodation and financial capability to take care of yourself in the country, yellow fever vaccination certificate. Have multiple copies of all these documents and digital copies on your phone. Yo. You never know when you need these things. Better be over-prepared.

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In terms of Visas, as a Kenyan passport holder, you only need to get a Visa to South Africa and Mozambique. All the other countries give entry at the borders. You can see a whole list of countries you don’t need a visa to visit, as a Kenyan.


So now that we’ve had the good, here’s the bad;

We thought we’d be able to get the Mozambique visa at the border but we found out today that we have to get the visa here before we leave so this will set us back a couple of days.

Luanda (the Landie that we’re taking) has some paper work issues that we need to solve before we can leave. It’s a bureaucratic issue that we hope to solve in a week but have very little control over.

This said, We are planning for a departure between 20th and 23rd and that’s hopeful. Bear and pray with us for a quick breakthrough in these matters. To me, all of this preparation is Unscrambling Africa. The journey has started. The journey isn’t just the driving and the shooting, it’s this. It’s the discovery and the preparation and the frustration of where to go and how to get there. We’re on a journey, even if we’re not yet on the move. Every day my head wanders before I sleep, thinking, Do I have enough equipment? What if I loose a card? What if I need an extra lens? What if we can’t get into a certain country? Do we really need to get into Maputo? It’s a mental journey waaay before its a physical journey. What can I say.

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God bless y’all. I hope you have a less frustrating day, will ya!

  • Reema Doshi

    All the best to you and the team! Will be following your journey 🙂

  • Karimi Kagwe

    praying with and cheering you guys on!

  • musa

    wish you the best on your trip. make sure you carry certified copies of your logbook and other docs – zambia will ask for them! and yes, you need to visit maputo because its a really beautiful city.

    • We will do so. Thank you very much for the tip. We really hope we make it into Maputo. DOn’t wanna leave any city unshot.

  • This is amazing!
    I pray for safety on your trip.
    I pray that you have fun and see amazing things!
    I will be following your journey!

  • Mkulima Young

    In Mozambique get a certified copy of your passport (at a police station there)…when asked for your passport by Police present the certified one…Maputo is beautiful (get photos of Maputo Railway station)

  • Angela K

    All the best guys!
    And yes, the travel frustrations and bureaucracies are part of Unscrambling Africa.
    On the bright side, you can become road-trip consultants for Sub-Saharan Africa alongside your usual businesses on your return. 🙂

    • Ooohhh. Good one. Use this frustration to make some side cash. *high five* Thank you

  • Muthoni Bernadette

    You know what, Mutua? Just reading this post has given me so much life! I shall be on this journey with you, vicariously. I’ve always dreamed of Africans telling our own stories and I can’t wait to see all you will discover! It’s gonna take off. All the best guys! Sending all the good vibes your way 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Robert D

    Can’t wait to read about this journey, best of luck.

  • Bella Valeur

    Where are you currently located?
    I’m working for a non-profit organization called HealthRight International and we’re looking for talented local photographers in Kenya