#NightBandits: How Instagram Can Change Global Perception

If you were to do a Google Image search for Nairobi, a majority of the pictures that show up will most likely depict the Westgate terrorist attack or the Nairobi National Park. Photographer and Nairobi-native Samir Dave wants to change that.

“That is not Nairobi,” Samir said of the monotony in the global perception of our capitol. “Nairobi is a bright, vibrant and upcoming African city echoing the hopes and dreams of its inhabitants.”

It all began when Samir discovered photographer and designer Mutua Matheka over Twitter. Mutua is principally known for co-founding the “I’m a City Changer” campaign – a United Nations-supported photography project that aims “to change mindsets of people in [African] cities.”

“Mutua was showing Nairobi in a way the world had never seen,” said Samir, who, after enrolling in a photography class that Mutua was holding, founded an Instagram collective by the name of #NightBandits. “It went on from there to here.”

“Here” is a community of avid Instagram users that under the joint leadership of Samir and Mutua aims to put Kenya and, particularly, Nairobi on the global map as a place of happiness and culture.

Together with 14 other photographers, Samir and Mutua have been showcasing the beauty of Nairobi to the rest of the world. And it was the formation of Kenya’s thriving Instagram community in the mid-2000s that allowed for them to recruit members.

The group used to primarily shoot from rooftops across the city, producing breathtaking panoramic pictures of its skyline. However, after noticing a surge in copycat photographers, the group began to reconsider.

“We take appropriate safety measures when accessing these rooftops,” said Samir, adding that he always seeks permission from building owners prior to shooting. “Most…do not. All it would take is one unfortunate incident to jeopardize all future access, not to mention loss of life.”

Although #NightBandits are downplaying their rooftop presence, the group is still regularly presenting stunning photographs that depict the diverse beauty of the city of Nairobi. Below are three examples, shot and explained by Samir Dave himself:


I zoomed in on the City Hall Clock tower, as it is a prominent landmark within the CBD. The juxtaposition of the time on the clock and buildings one either side with lit offices goes to show we are indeed a city that never sleeps.


This is an aerial shot of Nairobi showing dawn approaching from one side lighting up new and old buildings. There is a sense of growth through the evident construction sites.


Lonrho House is another prominent building within the CBD. The twilight had lit it up with hues similar to those of a peacock. The virtues of a peacock echo that of our city: pride.

Originally from Sweden, Chris is a journalist with an extensive interest for African culture and the arts.