Osborne Macharia, the photographer renowned for his really unique and incredible work, is back with another one.
Last month, he gave us Kabangu, the story of 4 gentlemen in the heart of Kariobangi who are watchmen by night and hip hop heads by day.
His new project is ‘Mengo.’
He describes the project on his blog as follows,
“Somewhere in downtown Nairobi, in an old abandoned warehouse, is a secret fight club called Mengo. Every month, hardcore fighters with years of intense training and fighting meet up for the sole purpose of beating each other up. It doesn’t matter what one does during the day. When darkness falls, it’s time for pain. Mengo is not like other fight clubs; its fighters are exclusively people of short stature.
No one knows who owns or runs the secretive, highly organized underground fight club. It’s been said that it is an elite wealthy group of former fighters that sponsors and manages the network. All we know is that attendance is by invitation only. And an invite means you have to fight.
The first rule of any fight club is, you don’t talk about the fight club. It doesn’t say anything about taking photos.”
Meet the fighters:
Weight: 52 kgs
Finishing Move: Spinning Back Ng’oto!
No one knows where Mangalitos came from, but everyone knows he has lived in the ring longer than anyone else in the Mengo underworld. He was among the First Ten, an elite group that founded the Mengo Fight Clubs. Now he strides across the underworld as the only person to have ever held all championship tiles. With his fading eye sight, his precious lantern is what guides him home.
Mangatos’ fighting is a mix of moves, including a whipping move with a chain tied to his right ankle. His finishing move is a sudden “spinning back ng’oto.”
Weight: 45 kgs
Finishing Move: Rain of Pain!
Dudus is the rain of pain! She is armed with a heat-seeking fare (sling shot) and an insatiable thirst to inflict pain on all her opponents. In the ring, Dudus is incredibly fast and tirelessly focused. By the time she begins the rain of pain, the fight is already over.
First introduced to the ring when she was 10, Dudus is a legend in the Mengo underworld. She is the reigning world champion; her path to victory colored with the screams of her opponents.
Height: 141 cm
Finishing Move: Vibare soo!
Mrefu is the immediate former world Mengo champion. He first got into the fight club when he was 5. He spent his entire first decade getting beaten, until he picked a fight with Mende, then the champion of the ring.
Songs are still sung of how Mrefu the Brave finished off Mende the Beast with a blindingly fast volley of slaps delivered by a hand covered with a metal chain. Mende never saw them coming, and he never recovered from this defeat. Actually, to this day, no one has ever recovered from “Vibare soo!”, Mrefu’s finishing move.
Finishing Move: Bladaa!
No one knows where Sonko came from but one day, he sneaked into the Mengo ring and asked for an opponent. Quiet, focused, and fluid in the ring, Sonko moves like the fight is a dance. He has held the world championship three times in his decade in Mengo, and is most famous for his finishing move, “Bladaa!” It is a sneaky club attack that forces the opponent to back away instinctively, giving Sonko the chance to head butt them so hard that they lose consciousness.