Tag Archives: Africa

Free range mothers

Happy mother’s day!

Once my son told me that his co-teachers expressed concern that I was left on my own while he worked (I assume this was at least in part due to their recognizing how poor my Chinese language skills are). At the time the term “free range children” was in vogue, so I told him to say that he believed in free range mothers. I wonder how that would translate.

Just for fun here are some truly wild mamas.

You can view any image larger size by clicking on it.

Human Faces

I realized in trying to respond to the challenge this week: Face, that I don’t usually take pictures of people’s faces. I tend to take a whole person in context. After going through scads of pictures, I decided to take new pictures of my furry friends. I posted Furry Faces this morning. But, especially after seeing some of the many great posts that other people did, I was haunted by some of the pictures I went through and almost used. So I provide for you here a gallery with some human faces.

 

Candid Kids

Here are a few candid pictures of kids from my archives for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge. All of these pictures were taken in color. I experimented with the black and white presets in Adobe Lightroom. At first I wondered why they had so many, but each picture looked best with a different setting. This is the first time I have experimented with the black and white settings in Lightroom.

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Divided

I read blogs. Even when I can’t seem to put my own words and pictures on pa…screen, it is beneficial to read, and nowhere can one see more different styles of writing and photography on a broad variety of topics than in blogs.

This morning I read a blog that was well, even beautifully, done, and deeply disturbing to me: Edge of Humanity Magazine’s Social Documentary Photography – Becoming A Man In Omo Valley, Ethiopia.

It was good journalism, I think, the tone was educational, not judgmental (something I could not have pulled off had I been the author), and the photography was technically good and used well to illustrate the story. What disturbed me, and the reason I bring this up as a response to the prompt Divide, is that I live in a world where that rite is wrong…on many levels…and I do not believe that it is just “my culture” vs “their culture”.

Mostly I take a live-and-let-live approach to cultural differences and choose to keep my mouth shut for things I feel are weird but maybe I don’t get how things are in your world. However…

The idea of becoming a man by whipping women, to the point of severe lifelong scarring, is an anathema to me. As is the idea that these scars are a show of affection and devotion:

Backs of many of these women already have severe welt marks from previous ceremonies in which they had been whipped. Welt marks are considered a sign of love and devotion. The more welt marks a girl has the more it translates into her devotion to her brother and also help in attracting a potential husband.

Where do human rights fit into this picture? Is it okay because that is the “culture” of the people? The women look to no future if they don’t have massive welts…not exactly a true choice. I wonder how many of them die of alcohol poisoning trying to work up the courage to participate…or to try and numb the pain afterward.

Yesterday I read a blog article about PTSD. I can’t imagine that anyone in a place where this is a ritual doesn’t have PTSD. Either you have been injured severely or someone you love has. The need for massive amounts of alcohol to perpetuate the ritual is a major clue to this.

I can, on a cold, analytical level, see where the ritual may be a response to living in a harsh and dangerous world. Making a ritual of the pain is one way to take ownership of it. My world is temperate, soft and loving by contrast so I am shocked by this insight into a very different world. I wonder if I could survive in that world?

To avoid articles like that, which I sometimes do because they disturb me so much, is one way to let the world go along without change.

I found the article well-done, informative, thought provoking, and I think people should read this article as it sheds light on many important issues in our world, but I was really, really torn by hitting a “like” button for it. I wish there was a button for “Well done article on disturbing topic”.

Leap of Faith

Four years ago I was in Africa, celebrating the birthday of this dynamic girl named Faith:

 

I wonder what she is doing now…

That trip was part of a leap in my own life…in some ways more than one and, typical of me, I landed kind of funny. Nothing broken but a little wrenched out of shape with a pulled muscle here and there.

The trip was an impulse…I had visited the village in 2011 and intended to go back in 2013 or 2014 in order to space out our visits. My son and I were part of an organization, somewhat connected to our parish, doing “mission” work in the village. We had visited in the spring of 2011 and James, my son, had spent the fall of 2011, after his college graduation, volunteering as a teacher at the very new Secondary School and managing  several projects related to starting a community library and procuring books and supplies for the school and library, related to the Millennium Development Goals.

Going back so soon was not in our game plan, however, some folks in the group, most notably the woman from that village and her husband were going to attend a harambee she had arranged to support “girl child education”.   I was not particularly interested in the harambee, although I support the idea of funding education for girls and doing so within the community instead of outsiders coming in and dictating outcomes, the politics that were involved left me frigidly cold.

However, the library was desired by the community and needed a boost at that point in time if it was to continue to exist. So I went, along with books and money to buy books selected by young adults from the community.  (I sometimes think that fiction is the only way to tell the truth…someday, if I ever get things figured out enough in my own mind, I may try to write a novella about that “ministry”.)

Since 2012 was my fiftieth birthday year I decided to give myself a short safari as part of the trip. It was only three days, but they were the most incredible days of my life. It was also the reason why I bought my Nikon L120…and subsequently decided to learn more about taking better pictures.

If only I knew then what I know now about using the camera and composition…

The safari was time apart. I went on it alone. While my son accompanied me to Africa he went straight to the village with a hundred pounds of children’s books we had brought from the States, the books purchased and the librarian who had come to Nairobi to help select books.

Traffic jam in Nairobi Kenya.
“The Jam”

The return to Nairobi was to get caught back up in the tangle of confusion that seemed to always be a feature of doing what we did in Kenya. The “jam” is a good metaphor for it. That is what they call the traffic there. The whole city seemed to be near stand-still as people inch along. Vendors walk in among the cars selling newspapers, fruit, etc. We once saw a hand drawn cart passing all the motor cars as it wove in and out of the lanes.

When we got to the village things slowed down, okay “speed” isn’t quite what was happening in Nairobi. Maybe it would be better to say “the stress eased up”. A very few images of “typical” village experiences:

Again, I really wish I had known then what I know now about photography and composition.

One thing I had hoped to do when I started this blog was to explore my African experiences and play with the pictures from that trip. To try and digest the raw experiences and find meaning. I did not plan on that being my last trip, but I have now drifted into other responsibilities and projects.

When you take a leap sometimes you don’t wind up where you expect.

Leap

The Picture’s the Thing

We are so selfie-ish!

I saw an article in the newspaper this past week, likely you saw it too, of a man who had killed a lion with a bow and arrow. The product that came from that hunt was a picture. The lion was not endangering folks, the meat wasn’t eaten, they didn’t even stuff the lion for a museum or use his body to study lions. The man showed skill, got a thrill and they took a picture.

The world is full of shock and outrage, I feel that too. But I also feel disturbed about our society. Trophy pictures of folks with their big fish, or deer, or even lion are nothing new.

Here’s the thing:

Isn’t the trophy picture the origin of the selfie? Now, sometimes, it feels like we live our lives in trophy picture mode. We are all shouting: “Look at me! See what I did! See where I am? See who I am with?” at the top of our lungs (figuratively speaking, since we usually are posting on facebook with the thump of our fingers).

It disturbs us when someone takes the egotism to the next level.  Big game hunting isn’t new, in fact my distress is because I thought it was old hat, and we were, as a society, beyond killing a big, beautiful, majestic animal to take a trophy picture. That we had moved on in our understanding about animals and the complex diversity of life “on this fragile earth, our island home”*. That we no longer feel like everything was put here just for us. That we are stewards of creation, not petty dictators.

Isn’t the whole selfie craze a form of trophy hunting?

I went on a three day safari at Masai Mara in Kenya a few years ago. It was pinch-me-I-must-be-dreaming incredible. I took many, many, many pictures…and posted some of them on facebook. I couldn’t resist sharing!

Seeing lions was a real high point of that trip (Masai Mara is famous for lions) and I took about a hundred pictures of lions, but I didn’t feel a need to be in the picture. The most awesome, amazing, incredible experience of my life and no selfie! Does that mean I wasn’t there?

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I was there!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Game of Groans.”

* From the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, used by the Episcopal Church in the USA.