Interview by Ronia Abra
Edited by Koura-Rosy Kane
All Images are Courtesy of 199xorg
Image 1 and 2: “Jogoo Wa Shamba”, Editorial by 199xorg
Image 3: “THE PARANOID SANTA”, Editorial for IAMISIGO SS21 by 199xorg
Image 4: “Bao”, Editorial for Ikeno Menswear by 199xorg
Image 5 and 6: “ARDHI YA MIUNGU”, Editorial for IAMISIGO SS21 by 199xorg
Image 7: “SODA PARTY”, Editorial by 199xorg
Meet Michael Mwangi, Fred Odede, Kennedy Mirema and Dalton Odiye, the four creatives making waves in Nairobi, Kenya. Together, they created 199xorg, a collective turnt production company with a mission to leave their mark not only on the country’s creative scene, but on a global scale.
Ranging from editorial over commercial production to documentaries, and digital techniques to analogue, the 199xorg productions are so recognizable thanks to their unmistakable visual language, as well as a clever way of referencing and embracing East African and Kenyan culture along with the communities that surround them. Innovative yet never overstated, their work reveals an eye for detail.
As East Africa’s talents continue to push the boundaries of its creative industry, 199xorg is contributing to the construction of new narratives and authentic representation. See for yourself: Over the next few months, FERTILIZER will feature a selection of four inspiring short films made by 199xorg (“Jogoo Wa Shamba”, “The Paranoid Santa”, “Head in the Sky” and “Mabaharia Wa Lamu”.)
For this interview, the team gives more insight into their journey so far, their aspirations and Kenya's blooming creative scene.
You mentioned starting out as a collective. Who was part of the collective and when did you first meet?
The collective was formed in the year 2019 by friends with similar creative interests.
Being previously aimed at being an editorial magazine, 199x came to life through a series of passion projects surrounding visual arts and clothing.
First founded with the initial goal of being an editorial magazine, 4 years later 199xorg stands as a creative film production company specializing in fashion editorial production and commercial advertisement.
As a creative collective, the company is composed of 4 individual artists, each with their own unique discipline and skill set.
Our production company has been in the industry for two years now, and we are proud to say that we have been able to achieve quite a lot in that time.
When did you decide to make the transition from collective to production company?
The transition fully came about towards the end of 2021 with our first commission from Johnnie Walker to handle Kenya’s production for a fashion film traversing across 15 African countries.
Months before that was us basically officiating most of our platforms and regrouping our ideas to align with the vision of taking over East Africa's visual output and controlling the narratives coming from here in terms of commercials, fashion films and editorial production.
You state on your website that your work is a “contemporary fusion of the African perspective in new school and relation of the same in terms of marketing and advertising.” Can you elaborate on the vision and values that are behind your work?
Our work is heavily inspired by our traditions and way of life. Deriving most of our core ideas from activities we’ve grown up seeing and experiencing, we reintroduce them as fresh contemporary ideas that are a reflection of the current and the old.
Our vision is to document East Africa and its people in their true faces and fashion through consistent showcase and celebration of culture through film and advertisement.
We aim to leverage the richness and complexity of East African culture and heritage to create dynamic and engaging campaigns that resonate with diverse audiences.
At the heart of this vision are a set of values that guide our work. These values include a commitment to authenticity, cultural representation and a deep respect for the communities whose experiences we seek to represent.
We came together to develop a visual production company with contemporary roots and culture, and we have been able to successfully accomplish that goal.
We believe that our unique perspective has allowed us to transcend culture and fashion through storytelling methods that explore our own traditions.
We pride ourselves on our ability to tell visually compelling stories and we believe that by combining contemporary visuals with traditional storytelling, we are able to create bodies of work that resonate with audiences on a deeper level.
"The Kenyan creative industry is on the right path. The past two years have seen an immense growth in individual self expression, a motivating factor that has made young artists come out of their shells and strive to produce the very best versions of their authentic works. We’re proud to be pioneers, spearheading cultural renaissance and self expression not only for ourselves but for the coming generations."
Your productions are characterized by unique color compositions and the use of beautiful locations. Did 199xorg have a distinct aesthetic vision from the beginning or does “style” develop intuitively?
As a collective, we have always had a distinct visual aesthetic vision from the beginning. We believe that style develops intuitively, and our main focus is to always tell our stories using the best striking imagery possible.
While our aesthetic vision has remained consistent, our style has evolved over time. We are constantly experimenting with new techniques and approaches, and our style evolves naturally as we continue to refine our craft. However, we always remain true to our core values and vision, and we believe that this is what sets us apart and makes our work impactful.
One of your goals is to establish yourself as a key player within your field. How do you experience the current creative industry/scene in Kenya?
The Kenyan creative industry is on the right path. The past two years have seen an immense growth in individual self expression, a motivating factor that has made young artists come out of their shells and strive to produce the very best versions of their authentic works.
We’re proud to be pioneers, spearheading cultural renaissance and self expression not only for ourselves but for the coming generations.
And if you can share: What’s next for 199xorg in 2023?
As a collective and production company, the future holds great potential for growth.
Our aim is to sharpen our skills further and be conversant with any type of production which will propel us to be the best in fashion & film.
It’s a lot of planning and execution in different areas we want to explore and laying proper foundation for our targeted achievements for the coming years.
We are excited to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible in creative visual production and storytelling.
June 20, 2023