Photographs

iggy

iggy

Chakhala Village, Mchinji District, Malawi


So much of the news from Africa is depressing: famine, aids, wars, orphans, despots, you name it. It’s not just the mainstream media; I’ve been hit recently by a kind of “year-end giving blitz” when relief agencies scramble for your 2009 tax planning largesse. Lots of hungry kids with flies in their eyes. I’m told by my non-profit friends that this is because people only give to tragedy not joy.

I understand this. I don’t blame them, and I don’t think they overstate or outright lie just to raise money, at least as far as I can tell.

What’s lost in that reportage, and in mainstream imagery, is how crazy wonderful the people and place is. Since mid-July, I’ve spent a month in Africa, enmeshed in a couple of pretty serious issues but there’s a great deal of joy.

I don’t want to downplay the problems or fetishize smiling kids. But I get a little tired of how we often fetishize starving kids with flies in their eyes.

This video is just some videographic ballast. Continue reading Turning Around | Mr. Ignacious Mwambola

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When Madonna’s black-with-dark-tinted-windows Land Cruisers came barreling down the dirt road towards the orphanage, the locals thought they were ready. They had printed up t-shirts with the “Adopt Me” slogan and an arrow pointed towards their face. They were ready to run down to the main road with their shirts on, line the road out to the orphanage, and wave at the cruisers as they sped past.

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Find a patch of brush. Light it on fire. Catch all the mice as they race to escape the flames. Toss them into boiling water. Wait. Scoop their wet-soaked scraggly carcass out of the water pot. Jam a dozen between two sticks. Run out to the road. Wait for a passing minibus. Sell for 150-250 Kwacha (USD$1.00-1.75)

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In 1988, on a trip to Uganda, we carried a polaroid and were able to take family shots, village shots, etc. and give them the photograph right then and there. I can’t seem to find a Polaroid these days. And while everyone seems to get a kick looking at the LCD screen on the back of my camera, it’s not the same.

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Science has a way of creeping up on you. It’s sneaky—like classical music can be sneaky. One day you’re thrashing to the Ramones and Nine Inch Nails and the next you find yourself in tears in the middle of your living room because you just heard Lazlo Varga play a cello in ways you never thought possible and the strings’ vibrations reached out and bent you into a kind of fetal position of perverse ecstasy.

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When we were kids growing up in the Bible Belt, my mother used to threaten to wash our mouths out with soap if we told dirty jokes. Like a lot of kids in that era, in that place, my older brother and I used to try and juke her out by using off-color biblical references that involved the hint of slightly naughty words.

my brother: “Hey punk, who was the the most flexible man in the Bible?”

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He wasn’t very large by bull moose standards, with a fairly small set of antlers. He didn’t look healthy in fact. He was standing ankle-deep in the river, watching us, not moving, almost unsteady on his legs. Something about the way he was standing didn’t seem “right.” Of all the animals I do not want to tangle with, a bull moose, particularly a sick one, ranks near the top.

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Stillwater River, inside the A-B boundary, on the trail to Sioux Charley

4:30 A.M. Pitch black. Deep winter. Nothing but darkness and cold. Jack Ballard and I are making time up the trail before first light for an end-of-the-season deer hunt. The light from my headlamp swings back and forth, making me dizzy. I turn it off and move silently up the canyon. We’re aiming for a spot about three miles up and across the river…Out of nowhere it hits us — a howl comes straight out of the darkness.

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