“The Smallest Library in Africa” tells the story of Peter Otieno, a Kenyan who saw the need to address one of the main problems in his community—access to books—and prompted him to build the tiniest library in the continent.
Featuring: Biko Wesa
United Photo Industries
James Estrin and David Gonzalez, Co-Editors of the New York Times Lens Blog
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“The Smallest Library in Africa” tells the story of Peter Otieno, a Kenyan visionary who saw the need to fill the education gap and address one of the main problems in the Mugure slums of Baba Dogo-Nairobi, Kenya: access to books. With the equivalent of just $5 USD, Peter started the library in August of 2014. He bought thin logs, cut them into four pieces to mark the library boundaries, and then mounted the logs in jerry cans for support.
Peter started the library with a few books he owned. Friends who had seen his project and believed in him, donated books they were no longer using and the project started to grow. The library goes beyond books though, as Peter and his colleagues use it as a mobilizing tool to engage and educate children about the challenges the community faces.
Peter’s dream is to one day acquire land and build a library, a permanent structure. Recently the library moved into a rented room where Peter hosts info sessions.
“The library idea is bigger than me. Even when I’m gone, or my entire generation is gone, the following generation will take over,” says Peter.
If you would like to donate books or assist Peter achieve his dream, get in touch with him through www.yaudi.com.
Biko Wesa (b. 1992) is an artist and documentary photographer from Kilifi, Kenya.
His work focuses on issues related to identity, cultural anthropology and emerging issues in his country and abroad. He started his career in photography in 2012 and later started pursuing personal projects. In 2015, he attended a week-long Canon workshop with Gary Knight, which drew him into visual storytelling and documentary photography. Biko was selected by the World Press Photo as a participant of the East Africa Masterclass in 2016, and was recently among 150 photographers worldwide who attended the 2017 New York Portfolio Review.
His work has been published in Christina Angell Anderson’s book “After 5: A Photographic Journey in Kenya.” His work has also been exhibited in the Museum of Drug Policy in New York and the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Biko is represented by Native Agency.
Founded in Amsterdam in 2016, Native Agency is a platform that seeks to amplify the voices of visual storytellers from underrepresented regions and connect them to a global audience.
The organization’s deep commitment to diversify the industry has led it to support photographers in their careers by means of representing, mentoring and connecting with the world at large.