Tanzania travel photography

For this first blog post I’ve chosen to invoke some happy memories of a 2013 photographic safari to Africa.

Two men ride tandem on a bicycle on a dirt road in Tanzania

“That was taken for the natural order in Africa: frolicking children, labouring women, idle men.”

While in Tanzania I read a book recommended by my father called Dark Star Safari, one of the many highly acclaimed books by travel writer Paul Theroux. I do like the guy, he writes with a healthy dose of cynicism. He also shows no fear in the face of this P.C. world of ours, writing with the intent of helping the continent he once called home, as opposed to regurgitating the same old clichéd phrases which are so often applied to Africa and its people.

With a broad yet vibrant brush, Theroux paints a picture of Africa that will forever stick in my mind. “Africans, less esteemed than ever, seemed to me the most lied-to people on earth – manipulated by their governments, burned by foreign experts, befooled by charities, and cheated at every turn. To be an African leader was to be a thief, but evangelists stole people’s innocence and self-serving aid agencies gave them false hope, which seemed worse. In reply, Africans dragged their feet or tried to emigrate, they begged, they pleaded, they demanded money and gifts with a rude, weird sense of entitlement.”

Looking back to what it was like for the author as a young school teacher somewhere in Africa, I think maybe Zambia, again he paints a vivid picture: “…living near a settlement of mud huts amongst dusty trees and parched fields: children shrieking at play; and women bent double – most with infants slung on their backs – hoeing the corn and beans; and the men sitting in the shade stupefying themselves on chibuku, the local beer, or kachasu, the local gin.”

Man being wheeled home on a recycled door after a big night on the Konyagi
Man being wheeled home on a recycled door after a big night on the Konyagi, advertised as the local spirit it tastes just like gin. You can buy it in bottles or as individual shots sealed in little plastic bags, like a gin sachet. 

Paul Theroux’s observation of  the natural order: “…frolicking children, labouring women, idle men” is the theme I settled on to shape my Tanzanian street photography.

FROLICKING CHILDREN

Boy jumping into water
Child riding a bicycle on the streets of Tanzania

LABOURING WOMEN

Woman balancing a shoe on her head in Tanzania
Woman selling in the Streets of Tanzania

IDLE MEN

Man asleep on a motorcycle.
Two men sit on overturned truck by the side of the road in Tanzania.

Of course it’s easy to collect data to suit a theory, rather than finding a theory to suit the data. Just highlight the evidence that supports it while ignoring any evidence to the contrary. So, in the interests of objectivity, here are some images that do not support his observation.

LABOURING CHILDREN

Child with a stick.

LABOURING MEN

Men working up high on a bilboard
Traffic police
soldiers of Tanzania
Man carries many brooms over shoulder in street

Funnily enough, I couldn’t find a shot of an idle woman. Perhaps there is some truth in Theroux’s words.

IDLE FAUNA

Baby hedgehog held in mans hand.