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The Merchants of Nairobi

Steve Bloom

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A tribute to the creativity and generosity of the human spirit in the streets of Nairobi


Steve Bloom has ventured away from the centre of the dynamic African metropolis of Nairobi into neighbourhoods where malls and supermarkets have not yet penetrated – a world that is changing fast. Here people buy their daily necessities locally, from small shopkeepers who decorate their hoardings with hand-painted signs. The results are often delightfully quirky – an authentic form of popular street graphics. Store façades are painted with images of goods of all kinds, from light bulbs to cuts of meat. Affirmative messages abound. ‘Beauty is your birthright’ proclaims the Eclipse Hair Salon. ‘Never give up’, urges the Bora-Bora Bar; ‘Life continues’. More than one shack hotel wittily declares itself ‘Hotel Hilton’. ‘Ghetto life is not easy’ says the façade of Abdalla Store. Indeed not: life here is very hard, yet this book is a tribute to the creativity and generosity of the human spirit.


'A unique book that uses photography to get right under the skin of a community and will excite anyone who delights in the creative energies of the street, and of the photographer'
The Photographer

'A compelling read and moving portrait of a side of Africa not often seen … An excellent read and valuable to anyone looking to get into reportage photography'
What Digital Camera?

'… an intriguing procession of street art that is as colourful as the characters Steve interviews'
Amateur Photographer

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 21.8 x 29.2 cm

Extent: 144 pp

Illustrations: 138

Publication date: 2 November 2009

ISBN: 9780500543818

Contents List

Introduction • Afya Fish and Chips • Beauty Hair Salon • Family Care Hotel • Eclipse Hair Cut • Shoe Repair • Hygiene Butchery • New Wave Gym • Pumwani Electronics • Area Kawangware Radio Sales • Aberdare Trading Syndicate • Damos Video Centre • Kampala Coffin Centre • Half London Greengrocer