This is the 4th installment of An African Journey by Yusuf Hashim, a partner of PhotoSafari.com.my. Yusuf Hashim has been traveling around the world in a 4×4 for more than 12 years. This is one of his episodes of his travels in Africa. It will give an insight on what to expect when you travel in Africa.
Yusuf is now planning to organize a PhotoSafari for photographers to Africa soon. So stay tuned.
An African Journey by Yusuf Hashim – Part 4
Below is a pretty little girl in the older part of Dar-es-Salam. The old city in DaresSalam has many buildings which are at least 200 years old. Their doors have intricate carvings and brass trimmings. I shot this Muslim little girl in the doorway of her house.
And below is another child from DaresSalam. How could a black man be any different from us, when our children are all the same ?
The Masai are probably the most well-known of the African tribes. Unlike other tribes which have become slightly westernised, the Masai have retained their traditional lifestyle, living like their ancestors have done, for thousands of years, as cattle herders They are warriors and nomadic herdsmen, living off their cattle, eating meat, milk and even drinking the blood of their cows. The Masai believe that all cattle in the world belong to them, even though some may have temporarily found themselves in the possession of others. Thus, during their history, the Maasai always feel justified in raiding their non-Maasai neighbors in order to “return” the cattle to the rightful owners. There are several groups of Masai living in harmony with the tens of thousands of wild animals of the Ngorongoro Crater. They are a fine example of how man can live side by side with those that were already there before he came to impose his will upon them. Below are a couple of ladies in a village of mud & dung huts in the Ngorongoro Crater of Tanzania.
One of the most well-known custom of the Masai is to welcome visitors to their village with their jumping dance called the Adumu. The Adumu is usually performed by the men of the village, as below, but if you are as lucky as I was, you just might get a Masai lady to welcome you to their village. Who wouldn’t feel welcome if they are greeted by a Masai lady dancing the Adamu such as the one on page 13 of my book. I wont post the picture here as many of our more conservative members might object. Go and buy my book and you can see more revealing pictures. It’ll be uploaded for printing on demand in a couple of weeks. And it’ll also be available as an eBook on the Apple iTunes Store. A good friend is presently proof reading the book to check out for any printing hantus. If you dont want to buy the book, its OK, you can flip through it for free.
And if you cant wait for the book to be uploaded check out the Adamu Dancing Girl HERE
And here’s a Masai Woman in all her finery.
African women usually carry their babies in a sarong-like sling over their shoulders, with the baby on the mum’s back, like a ruck sack. The sling is hung in such a way that they can easily breastfeed their babies on the move. Look carefully at the next picture. I think its a good system for Malaysian mothers to adopt. Our Malaysian mothers are slightly spoiled. Most times I see their maids carrying their babies and walking behind them. In Singapore its even more advanced. A Singapore soldier in full uniform had his picture in the papers recently. His maid was carrying his rucksack, and walking behind him.
Below is a shot of a typical Ethiopian farm on the slopes of the country’s hilly landscape. I liked the striped pattern formed by this farmer ploughing his land on a mountain slope far below the road I was on. If the farmer was not there, the perspective flattens the image, tricking our eyes into believing this was a flat painting rather that the slope of a hillside. Relationships between elements within our frame are therefore important in giving clues to our viewers to help them understand what we were trying to show when we shoot a picture. Its an area worth exploring to play tricks with the perception of our viewers.
What I wanted to explain was a bit of background about Ethiopia, which many of us are simply clueless about.
80% of Ethiopians are subsistence farmers dependent on agri-culture. Farmers grow coffee, oilseeds, cereals, vegetables, potatoes, sugarcane and beans. Ethiopian exports are almost entirely agricultural commodities, and coffee is the largest foreign exchange earner. Ethiopia is Africa’s second biggest maize producer, and its livestock population is believed to be the largest in Africa. However, Ethiopian agriculture is plagued by periodic drought, low-tech farming, soil degradation caused by overgrazing and deforestation, as well as exploitation by absentee landlords. During the imperial period when Ethiopia was ruled by Emperors like the last emperor, Haile Selassie, aristocrats and the church owned most of the farmland, and most farmers were tenants who had to provide as much as 50% of their crops as rent. To make matters worse, during the 1972-74 drought and famine, Emperor Haile Selassie’s government didn’t help rural Ethiopians, and tried to cover up the crisis by refusing international aid. As a result, up to 200,000 Ethiopians died and this was one of the events that precipitated the overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974. I still remember the newspaper reports about the events in Ethiopia at that time.
During the Imperial period, the emperor wasn’t able to implement meaningful land reform. The ordinary Ethiopian suffered, so the country was ripe for revolution, and this happened in 1974 when the Marxist Dergs staged a coup d’état against Emperor Haile Selassie. The revolutionaries abolished the monarchy in March 1975 and they threw Haile Selassie and almost all his family members into prison. Selassie himself died in prison in 1975, and his family members were not released until at least 1989. While in power, the Dergs fulfilled their slogan of “Land to the Tiller” by redistributing land belonging to landlords directly to the peasants tilling the land. However, frequent drought, mismanagement, corruption, and general hostility to the Derg’s violent rule, and the continuing civil war, caused a massive fall in agricultural production.
The weather has always had a profound adverse effect on Ethiopia’s economy. From 1984 to 1986, drought and the on-going civil war caused yet another tragic famine which resulted in the deaths of nearly seven million people. The Civil War, drought, famine and suffering went on in Ethiopia until 1991, when a coalition of rebel groups, the EPRDF, or Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front, managed to overthrow the Marxist government. The Ethiopian Civil war over-lapped other Cold War conflicts in Africa, such as the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002) and the war in Sudan. The war in Ethiopia caused the deaths of more than 1.4 million people, and it is only recently that it became safe to travel in Ethiopia again. Is it is any wonder then, that Ethiopia is still a mystery to most people, with many still believing that Ethiopia is still dominated by famine and wars. In fact Ethiopia is a beautiful country to visit, especially now when tourist numbers are still very low.
When I pass through a country, I usually buy lots of books about each country, particularly Coffee Table Books. Because we drive, and weight is not an issue, I sometimes bring home twenty to thirty hefty books from each of my trips. I now have a collection of about 60 coffee table books from Africa alone.
I recommend highly books of photographs shot by photographers such as Kazuyoshi Nomachi, and especially his book, The Nile, which has pictures of Ethiopia during their troubled years.
Another author-photographer who was the inspiration for my own book is Pete Turner, who wrote African Journey, the title of his book I shamelessly admit to copying. Pete Turner did part of the same journey that I did in Africa, from Cape Town to Cairo, except that he did it in 1959. I used a Toyota Landcruiser and took only 105 days to drive from Cape Town to Cairo, while Pete Turner used a truck to pull an Airstream caravan and he took 209 days in 1959. The other difference is of course Pete Turner’s pictures are up there in the stratosphere, compared to my very amateurish shots.
A photo by Pete Turner in his book, which he named Rolling Ball, was the photo that launched his career as an eminent Nat Geo Photographer. Rolling Ball for Pete Turner, was like The Afghan Girl for Steve McCurry.
Here’s what the road in Ethiopia going to Lalibela looks like. It’s beautiful compared to those of Kenya. We had to share the road with camels, cows and sheep. But that’s what the fun is all about. Each time we had to stop to give way to these animals, the sounds of a thousand camera clicks filled the air, as everybody wants to shoot pictures. Oh, apart from the clicking sounds, the smells were also different. I’m not sure whether camels smell worse than cows, or sheep smell better than camels.
Stay tuned for the 5th part of this series where Yusuf visits the Serengeti, the Wildlife Reserve in Tanzania.