It’s been a while since I last posted, but I was busy packing up, selling off and re-locating from Dakar, Senegal back to Nairobi, Kenya. It’s been some years since I’ve lived here, and it’s barely recognizable to me. The city has been transformed into a fizzing, high rise boom town with new roads, upscale apartments, a burgeoning middle class and tangled traffic jams. I made this photo with my iPhone 6 Plus the night after our arrival. Although, I miss the laid back, idiosyncratic atmosphere of Dakar, I look forward to this new chapter in our lives in this most lovely (and also troubled) East African country.
In these days of too much information and too little wisdom, it’s sometimes necessary to go that island (figuratively or literally) to watch the fishermen needle their way up and down the river.
The rich color palette of the streets of St. Louis, Senegal. The communal nature of this small, densely packed fishing community lays out it’s laundry for everyone to see, including sheep and goats.
Anyone who has ever lived or traveled in the drylands of Africa will recognize elements of this scene: orange light filtered through fine dust and a shimmering late afternoon heat. The town of Mandera, Kenya is where the country joins Ethiopia and Somalia in a volatile mix of ethnic, nationalist and Islamist aspirations. This particular visit was especially memorable for me because I got heat stroke. Despite it’s physical remoteness, I never felt alone. I traveled with a team of water technicians who were rehabilitating boreholes servicing largely Somali communities. We traveled widely and slept in tents close to camels and other livestock, so I always felt close to the lifeblood of these tough and resourceful people.
There was a time when Manda Island in the Lamu archipelago of the Kenyan coast was a pristine environment and virtually uninhabited. A desolate ruin of a Portuguese fort is on the eastern tip of the island and Takwa ruins drew a few tourists. Otherwise, Manda attracted little attention, until some land developers bought up the beachfront and sold it off to holiday jetsetters. I guess you can’t stop progress, but I prefer to remember when I could hire a private dhow for a few dollars to take me from Lamu town and drop me off at this beach without the distraction of up market villas.
Somewhere in the countryside between Joal and Ndangane in the coastal littoral of southern Senegal is this mother-of-all-baobab trees. This one is the largest baobab in Senegal for its age – 850 years old. These are some of the oldest living organisms in the world sometimes exceeding a thousand years of age. During the 12th century this tree was a sapling and is a virtual arboreal Methuselah in the twenty-first. The Serere people of Senegal consider it sacred and all visitors place their left hand on its trunk as a greeting. And like other famous artifacts of antiquity it has its own thriving community of souvenir hawkers beneath its stately boughs to make the visit memorable.
I’ve been traveling in southern Senegal this past week and will share some photos of my journey in the next few posts. As much as possible, I tried to collect a mix of landscape and portraiture, and the Fujifilm X100 camera was perfect for this combination.
While staying on the island of Mar Lodj in the Sine Saloum delta, I met these two kids who were gathering berries. Macho is the one on the right with his friend. They were both pretty cool with me taking their photo. As this is a Serere village, they are Christians; hence, the crucifix in the background.
In many African societies, old age is revered. A man or woman who has suffered life’s ordeals and survived is respected. Being an “elder” in a community is a stage of human growth that is earned and cannot be bought or ordained. After youth and beauty have dropped away what’s left is the distillation of character. It’s written in the face.
I made this portrait of a Dinka elder during a time of great hunger in his community. His eyes speaks volumes, as if to say, “I have seen all this before.” I wish I knew his story.
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to safari into the Loita Hills of western Kenya to see the Maasai Eunoto ceremony. It’s held once every 15 years to mark the passing of the young warriors into senior status. It’s an important rite of transition and is the last chance for the morans to enjoy their freedoms as warriors before their mothers shave their heads and they become elders.
I photographed this moran wearing a rarely seen relic of an old Maasai practice – the killing of a lion by spear. Only a warrior who has killed a lion in this manner can claim to wear its mane.