Beryl Markham once said, “Africa is mystical, it’s wild, it’s a suffocating hell, it’s the photographer’s paradise, the hunter’s Valhalla, the avenger’s Utopia. It’s what you want, and lends itself to all interpretations. It is the last vestige of a dead world or the cradle of a new and shining one. For many people, as for me, it is simply my home “.
My Africa begins with the words of this writer, adventurer and aviator who lived in Kenya at the beginning of the twentieth century. It starts with the feeling of being catapulted into a distant, exotic, different, but also welcoming and familiar world. A world full of contrasts where nothing becomes everything. Where wealth and poverty cohabit in the shadow of ancient colonial palaces, white beaches, and a crystalline sea.
My Africa has the face of the inhabitants of a village of Pwani Mchangani in the North East of the island. The place I called home for a limited time, but long enough to leave us a piece of the heart.
If there is one thing that Africa has taught me, it is respect.
That feeling of esteem, even affectionate, that can be felt towards people.
In Zanzibar, I arrived there on tiptoe, because admiring the island from the plane, with its crystal clear sea and its wild nature interspersed with whole villages of sheet houses burned by the sun, a thought was immediately clear: “Prepare to face a poor but wonderful reality”.
Indeed, Africa isn’t for everyone.
Africa is for those who know how to look beyond appearances, beyond preconceptions, and beyond prejudices.
Africa shouldn’t only be photographed to bring home the memory of an exotic place.
Africa must be understood, it must be lived.
Zanzibar Airport is an agglomeration of concrete, sheet metal, and dangling electric cables.
From the beginning it is clear why the mottos of the island are “Hakuna Matata”, that is “without thoughts” and “Pole pole”, slowly. The customs formalities to obtain the entry visa, from the cost of $ 50, in fact, proceed very slowly, while the heat is sticking on putting a strain on patience. “Breathe Sara. Learn to wait. You must understand that from then on you will regain your time. Those seconds, minutes and hours that work and commitments every day steal you”. When I understood it, I started to open my eyes to look at faded buildings, houses with arabesque doors, covered markets, street markets, rough brick houses, dust, garbage, colorful clothes hanging in the sun. And in the midst of this chaos, I noticed one hundred, one thousand new faces and glances: women with veils who bought goods displayed on rickety stalls, while children played with bicycle wheels and men sat under baobab trees to look for shade.
I saw rice plantations, pineapples, bananas and in the distance, the thick, dark jungle, spread over gentle hills that descended towards new villages of huts and towards a beach of fine white sand bathed by the waves of a sea whose colors reflected those of the sky.
My Zanzibar starts here and I’ll tell you the rest in the next articles…