The Saloon

In pre-colonial Kenya a story is told of a saloon built at the heart of an infamous town “Death City” in the Eastern Frontier District. The small town was inhabited by a group of outlaws who committed serious war crimes during the Great War of Liberty of 1871 and fled East of Mt. Kirinyaga (now Mt. Kenya). We set out to photograph a few of the remaining 5th Generation descendants who still own and control the secret saloon. 

Here’s what we shot:

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As the folklore goes, a territorial war broke out between The Western and Southern Frontier Districts, located West and East of Mt. Kirinyaga respectively, the conflict between these two territories forced the Union Government to deploy troops to try and calm the two conflicting territories. 

  A statue along Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi to commemorate the Native African Troops who fought along the British Troops in the Great German War (The East Africa Campaign of World War I ;   1914-1918) between the German East Africa (Now Tanzania) and the British East Africa (Now Kenya), this is the only Great War that is in records, the Great War Of Liberty of 1871 is therefore passed on as a folklore since there is no evidence to support its occurrence. To read more about the EAST AFRICA CAMPAIGN OF WORLD WAR I :-      http://bit.ly/2uVvcFt

A statue along Kenyatta Avenue, Nairobi to commemorate the Native African Troops who fought along the British Troops in the Great German War (The East Africa Campaign of World War I ; 1914-1918) between the German East Africa (Now Tanzania) and the British East Africa (Now Kenya), this is the only Great War that is in records, the Great War Of Liberty of 1871 is therefore passed on as a folklore since there is no evidence to support its occurrence. To read more about the EAST AFRICA CAMPAIGN OF WORLD WAR I :- http://bit.ly/2uVvcFt

Although the mission was accomplished, the Union soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division committed serious war crimes, carrying out genocidal attacks against the local people, looting and destroying key historical monuments and other serious crimes. When these atrocities were brought to the attention of the Union Secretary Of War back in Nairobi, he ordered the immediate arrest and prosecution of the soldiers involved. Upon hearing these new orders, the wanted men fled Far East of Mt. Kirinyaga, other Junior Union boys followed them and together they founded a new town and named it "Death City” As a result, this region has for a long time been referred to as The Wild East.

  The fictional genocide carried out by the Union Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division was inspired by the 1984's Wagalla Massacre of ethnic Somalis by Kenyan security forces in Wajir County, Kenya. You can read more about the Wagalla Massacre on Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagalla_massacre  or    http://bit.ly/2uupah3      Image Courtesy of The County Gov. of Wajir (    http://bit.ly/2v8LBWW  )

The fictional genocide carried out by the Union Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division was inspired by the 1984's Wagalla Massacre of ethnic Somalis by Kenyan security forces in Wajir County, Kenya. You can read more about the Wagalla Massacre on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagalla_massacre or http://bit.ly/2uupah3 

Image Courtesy of The County Gov. of Wajir ( http://bit.ly/2v8LBWW )

To avoid being hunt down, captured or killed on the streets like a dog in broad daylight, they banned all incoming visitors and even went ahead to print "WANTED" posters incase a stranger was spotted in the town. They used to say that "You Only Die Once, Die Honorably”. Most of the killings happened at the infamous Saloon where most of the outlaws used to hang out. Anyone could kill whoever they didn't know or suspected to be an undercover bounty hunter or union officer. There was no way out of the town.

  A fake "Wanted Poster" that the outlaws used to carry to justify the killing of intruders or new fellas who they suspected was an undercover bounty hunter. Designed by  DJ G

A fake "Wanted Poster" that the outlaws used to carry to justify the killing of intruders or new fellas who they suspected was an undercover bounty hunter. Designed by DJ G

The infamous town was completely destroyed during a punitive raid in 1893 led by Francis Hall, the saloon was refurbished by those who remained. It still stands to date and operates behind closed doors but has never been photographed or anyone from “outside” allowed in.

Read more about Francis Hall and his punitive raids when he was posted as an officer in the Imperial British East African Company in 1892:- https://hubpages.com/education/Francis-Hall-the-man-who-built-a-Fort-in-Muranga

We set out to photograph the few remaining 5th generation descendants of the infamous outlaws who still control the Saloon, although they’re free of their great great grandfather’s sins, the now private club remains closed to the public eye and opens only a few times a week. 

I’ve been particularly interested in understanding and re-discovering the pre-colonial history of Kenya-I love history and historic stuff anyway-although it falls at a period when recording history was uncommon therefore very few remaining photographs, paintings and other visual evidence from then reveals very little of the socio-political life from back then that I could use as references. 

A quick visit to the National Archives and National Museum of Kenya revealed very little of the said Great War Of Liberty, Death City, The Outlaws, or any visual reference of the saloon. Portraits of Paramount Chiefs from the 19th Century are the only reminders of how life was back then. An example of such a key figure in the history of this great nation is Waiyaki Wa Hinga who is rumoured to have fought in the war.

  The Kenya National Archives and Documentation Services situated at the edge of the central business district in downtown Nairobi. The archives was established in 1965 with a mandate to acquire, preserve and make accessible records and archives to the public.   The building also houses the Murumbi Gallery which contains African artifacts that were collected in the 19th century.

The Kenya National Archives and Documentation Services situated at the edge of the central business district in downtown Nairobi. The archives was established in 1965 with a mandate to acquire, preserve and make accessible records and archives to the public. The building also houses the Murumbi Gallery which contains African artifacts that were collected in the 19th century.

  A portrait of Waiyaki Wa Hinga and other praramount chiefs at National Archives. Waiyaki saw the transition from self government of the Kikuyu to colonial domination first by the Imperial British East African Company. He died in 1892 at Kibwezi. Learn more about Waiyaki wa Hinga at  http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/DN2/Andrew-Kuria-Waiyaki-wa-Hinga/957860-2441040-5t2drlz/index.html

A portrait of Waiyaki Wa Hinga and other praramount chiefs at National Archives. Waiyaki saw the transition from self government of the Kikuyu to colonial domination first by the Imperial British East African Company. He died in 1892 at Kibwezi. Learn more about Waiyaki wa Hinga at http://www.nation.co.ke/lifestyle/DN2/Andrew-Kuria-Waiyaki-wa-Hinga/957860-2441040-5t2drlz/index.html

When I first pitched the idea to my producer back in late May, while we were shooting our Lord Egerton Project, the story was quite vague and involved so many characters and quite expensive set designs were needed to match the kind of “Death City” we were looking for so we discussed and narrowed down to this specific bar/saloon scene. 

We were searching for four talents who had different roles, two of them who were to play poker in one of the saloon tables and were relatively unkempt with dull, creasy outfits. The other talent was a cowboy who walks into the saloon holding a wanted poster, he probably had heard there was a new guy in town, he walks straight to the counter and he engages the neat guy and they both have a drink. The fourth talent was the neat guy and as the name suggest, he was the neatest of them all.

  The Team...not in this photo is our Guest Assistant Peter Irungu who left slightly before the shoot was over.

The Team...not in this photo is our Guest Assistant Peter Irungu who left slightly before the shoot was over.

These projects usually come up as simple ideas that i’ve for a long time wished to execute but lacked the opportunity to do so, when such a chance becomes available, I give it a try to the best of my ability. I do this for the love of visual storytelling, for self gratification and ofcourse portfolio building, i’m doing this for myself and the course I signed up for; to create stories of the things that I like and issues that matters to me most. 

(above) Checking the progress of a vintage gun prop we were to use, this was a week before the shoot. It was made from scratch by Protisa Kenya . The design of the rifle was based on a 1892 Winchester model we had discussed earlier on.

I get inspiration from virtually everywhere, but most importantly from the people I get to meet everyday, favourite film scenes or locations I get to visit. My stories actually starts with the subject or a location that I have in mind, so I must have either for me to develop an idea to a valid concept. 

View a short video clip I did for the shoot: https://youtu.be/Ti75uaFCqws

Short video clip I shot with Samsung S7 and Huawei P8.

Below are some BTS stills from the shoot

Special Thanks to all the production team, especially the Producer, security team, Nick Karani, Beata Otieno who is my all time stylist, Kate Waititu one of the best makeup artists I know, ProTisa for the accurate replication of the Winchester Rifle, The Curragh Irish Pub and Bistro management for the exclusive access to their property and hospitality and all the talents who owned up part of the production, we did it for ourselves and for the love of art! my special thanks goes out to you all! I am personally humbled to be part of such a huge team, its quite challenging to handle and co-ordinate such a big team but I always believe team work will always and forever win!

PRODUCTION CREDITS;

Peter Pekat- Producer

Beata Otieno (Ojwa Styling)- Stylist

Kate Waititu (Kanai Beauties) - Makeup Artist

Annerose Njoroge - Makeup Assistant

Peter Irungu- Guest Assistant

Kelestine Amuga- Guest Assitant

Kwach Godwin- Security

Pro Tisa - Gun Props

Isaac- Driver

Location: The Curragh Irish Pub And Bistro 

TALENTS:

Alex Kirimi- Neat Guy

Njuguna Wacheke -Poker Guy 1

Stephen Ayako -Poker Guy 2

Mathangani Kariuki- Cowboy

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Do you have any question regarding the shoot, the equipments I used, post-processing? Any complimentary message you'd like to pass? or further clarification? Use the form in this page, i'll get back to you in a split second; ASK KAMAU

DISCLAIMER: USE OF TOBACCO OR ALCOHOL IN THESE IMAGES IS NOT SPONSORED AND HAS BEEN USED FOR ARTISTIC PURPOSES ONLY. TOBACCO AND EXCESSIVE CONSUMPTION OF ALCOHOL IS HARMFUL TO YOUR HEALTH.

''You Only Die Once, Die Honorably''- Unknown

Text by; @its_kamau