Leni Frau, who is the italian photographer in Kenya

Shots and exhibitions, from coastal tribes to the Dandora landfill

08-02-2024 by redazione

She landed in Kenya years ago from Italy with a passion for Africa and photography and now tells the story of that country and its people, its contrasts, beauties and paradoxes, through shots that have already attracted the interest of institutions, museums and art galleries, as well as the public.
She is Maddalena Stefanelli, but in Nairobi and its environs they know her as "Leni Frau", a reference to her favourite visual artist of Africa, Riefenstahl, with that slightly German connotation given by those who see her as a perfectionist, almost a soldier.

But her battles are other: to show the many realities of a complex and interesting country such as Kenya, from the people who live in the continent's largest rubbish dump to the tribal communities struggling to preserve their traditions, made up of rituals, dances and legends, to the protection of the environment.
Born in Cagli, in the Marche region, in 1976, after studying and working in Milan as a travel agent, she bet on the Black Continent as the ideal setting in which to live and work.
'It was a life choice,' says Leni, 'after years of organising trips for others, I decided to make one myself, a very long one. In fact I am still here..."

During all this time, Leni has been based in Malindi, one of the Indian Ocean paradises favoured by tourists, but her passion for photography has led her to travel all over Kenya, a nation that in addition to the sea offers incredible landscapes, from the savannah to the mountains and volcanic lakes, but is also full of contradictions, poverty and conflicts.
"This is what interests me most, the contrasts seen from the perspective of the local people and the paradoxes of urbanisation, unsustainable growth and disproportionate wealth in the hands of a few.

It is also for this reason that he decided to move to the Kenyan capital in 2023, while still returning to the coast frequently.
In her Kenyan years, Leni has set up travelling exhibitions and published books, starting with 'Mijikenda', a portrait of the Kenyan coastal tribe struggling not to see their traditions disappear.
A unique reportage produced by living for a long time in contact with Mijikenda elders and activists in Malindi and its hinterland. The exhibition has been on display since 2015 in Kenya and in Italy, where it has been shown in 15 cities, often in conjunction with evenings that chronicled the African country and promoted tourism.

With her husband Freddie, she published the book "Under an African lantern", which also tells in beautiful pictures the social project of the football school in Malindi that takes children off the streets of the slums and, with the stimulus of football, makes them study.
In 2019, he realised the exhibition 'Zeinab-Zena', a solo show produced and sponsored by the Italian Embassy in Kenya with the patronage of the Municipality of Genoa. Exhibited for a month in the historic Fort Jesus in Mombasa, one of the attractions of the Kenyan coast, the shots compared the port cities of Mombasa and Genoa, creating interesting parallels.

In 2023, he included some of his images from the exhibition 'Nairobi, the visible city' in the book 'Nairobi' written by his spouse and published by the Turin-based publishing house 'OgZero'.
From the black-and-white shots produced for the book, which received the international 'Volterrani-Narrare il mondo' award at the Turin Book Fair, plus others, an exhibition of black-and-white images was born, which has already been successfully staged in the same metropolis, in Malindi and in the other popular tourist town, Diani Beach.
Other shots, together with a few edited ones, are part of the project 'No Ghost in Dandora', which aims to give light and dignity to the women rubbish collectors in the Dandora rubbish dump in Nairobi, the largest and most degraded in Africa. Leni has many other projects and different goals. First, indispensable, that of her Nikon.

TAGS: leni fraufotografaimmaginimijikendadandorazeinablanternamostra

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