Yellow carpet

Yellow. This is the scene we have been working on. Just a by the way. Its the flowers that blossom from the branches facing the skies. Dark and pale as they look. And still the wonder of nature lives with us. Having little to say but just to watch.

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Two months have passed now as the expanding carpet of flowers still sits on the floor of earth. They get sucked into the earth one by one. I see the essence of being a part of this downward movement. Right from the sky to the ground.

Its the time to create this. Now and in future. Probably popping fresh occasionally .

Photography & Text | lukhovi.com

 

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Mt. Longonot 2013/14

Well 2013 is just about to come to an end. How time goes fast! Am here, already climbing Mt. Longonot crater, hoping to go round the 7.2km disc of rocks. I am discovering the inner me, come 2014. Doing my last day of the year 2013, at least on top of the crater.

Sample some of the images. More to come next year!!

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Photography :: Joel Lukhovi

Location :: Mt. Longonot Crater

Hawking Vibe

City of Nairobi

Hawking as a survival strategy for the urban poor in nairobi. Nairobi is facing momentous challenges after years of neglect by poor leadership and governance.

street vendor

A street vendor walks past a pedestrian with his merchandise from river road, Kiambu road.

At four o’clock the temperature has dipped enough to break the camp in the city. I clear the dust and sweat from my face and start walking, studying the area around me for a moment. I have to be precise and get the right angle to start my activity within 200m by 200m space. Its the Globe round about, close to the Nairobi fire station.

fire stationSome of the biggest challenges facing urban centres in Kenya today is how to tackle the issues of unemployment, through the provision of viable areas for self-employment opportunities as well as improving the quality, standard of living and infrastructure. The urban spaces are not designed to empower people or provide vibrant places where opportunities for small entrepreneurs and informal activities can trade and manufacture at viable locations.

taking positionNairobi is faced with the challenge of trying to deal with hawkers within their Central Business District (CBD). In most of the cases hawkers have not been allocated space to operate from. Though ignored by planners and harassed by the Local Authority enforcement officers, the hawkers within urban centres, have tended to acquire and control space informally. The situation in the CBD of Nairobi has reached a critical stage.

Hawkers run away from the city council askaris after they appeared from the vicinity.

Hawkers run away from the city council askaris after they appeared from the vicinity.

This raises critical questions about who has the role to designs cities and what procedures do they have to go through. What are the empowering agencies and laws? What role do these assign to hawking and street vending activities? I believe it should not just be about harassing the hawkers but at least being able get the right policies that drive the society.

runawayThe elements of power, control over space and the conflicts that emerge with regards to urban space utilization. This stem in part from the fact that most planning projects are implemented with missionary zeal (to remove hawkers from the CBD) and bear little reference to hawkers’ needs and priorities.

Matatus hekd up in traffic along Tom Mboya street as the city askaris engage the hawkers in a street battle.

Matatus hekd up in traffic along Tom Mboya street as the city askaris engage the hawkers in a street battle.

The short term recommendations are change of altitude and Nairobi city council recognizing the potential of hawking in generating revenues and also providing employment. Improving the infrastructure that are in place to try and harmonize the operation of both the formal activities and the hawkers.

Order has to be restored in the city to have a proper way of doing business.

Order has to be restored in the city to have a proper way of doing business.

Also the idea of allocating traders sufficient trading spaces and providing mechanism for the hawkers to be represented in decision making and lastly reviewing the rules and regulations that hinder the development of the activity.

Photography and text:: Joel Lukhovi

Photographs for Africa: Tanzania

Poa kichizi kama ndizi!

To a visitor the daily life presents itself colorful, lively and mixed up. As a visitor you first have to get used to it. But soon everything will appear in a much sharper focus. In between the many people, you will recognize different persons doing their jobs.

arrival in morogoro

It feels more like a lifetime. A world away from here. Everyday I think about my experiences in Tanzania with longing and wonder. Did it really happen to me? Did I swim in the Indian Ocean, fly over the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro, get to know great people from around the region? Did I really walk on the rooftop of Africa? Did I meet and fall in love with some of the greatest kids I’ll ever know, did Moshi, Arusha, Dodoma, Morogoro and Dar really feel like home?

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Did I truly discover some of the harsh realities people face? Will the lessons stay with me forever or will Tanzania slowly fade away? If I’m being honest, how much does that scare me? What will happen next and how can I build on what I know now? How can I reflect my memories, the lessons and truths learned, in my life back home? Well…I am still working on it. Here is what I know now.

the hills across

People say that this is an experience of a lifetime. And it is, I do not wish to take one moment I had in Tanzania for granted. But for me I feel like that phrase falls flat. They don’t describe what I have felt or seen, they do not encompass all of the quirks, joys, fears, and beauties that have existed for me. I know that I can not sum up Tanzania in four words or less, I guess that is why I have written this much.

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You have heard about it, experienced it, and seen it along with me. Perhaps you have felt some of my happiness, sorrows, and excitement. And maybe you now have the desire to seek the unknown or help where you have never thought you could. It was my hope and reason for documenting my days across the neighbouring nation.

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I encourage everyone to leave behind what they know, to experience a new world and reality. It will open you up to all kinds of possibilities you never imagined, for instance interacting with all the new communities i got to meet in search of a life with my camera. Yet I know that these trips are not possible for everyone. And for those of you whose lives are going down different paths than my own, there are still many ways to discover the world, because we can all make a difference no matter where we are.

masai warriors

But more than just the struggles and hardships, I have seen the importance of putting people and relationships before money and possessions, a love for nature and the outdoors, and the need to appreciate the little things. Living in another culture lets you absorb all of the good things it has to offer. I am so grateful for the opportunity to see both the good and the bad.

dar in the morning

The most common way to get around in Tz, is to use dala dala. Buses of various sizes and brands. All of them have one thing in common: they are always overcrowded. It’s fascinating to see the variety of baggage and freight: from living chickens to 50 kg sacks of rice on the roof or anywhere else. Passengers must be masters of self-control: sitting closely together, skin to skin even at high temperatures, tolerating all with peace and serenity. It’s an adventure to get out from such a vehicle at rush hour.

crowded daladala

A more pleasant way is to drive with bajaja. Particularly in Dar es Salaam it is the preferred mode of commuting, these three-wheel motorcycles, where the guests are sitting in the rear passenger compartment, almost as the British royal couple in person. So elegantly chauffeured around, most destinations will be reached faster than with cars which tend to be stuck in traffic jams. The skilled drivers know a lot of short ways. However, it may happen that you are bound to lend a hand to cross an obstacle at a construction site.

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Tanzania is a liberal country when it comes to the acceptance of different religious opinions. Believers of the great world religions live peacefully side by side. The belief in ancestors and other convictions are also tolerated.

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For many people music is the purpose of life, at least it belongs inseparably to the way of life. Regardless that some cars are almost wrecks, they will surely have good music equipment.  Sometimes you get the impression that the car windows bend outside due to the massive sounds from the radio. Tanzanian music is melodious and swinging.

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At the coastal region you will hear the typical TAARABA sound. Mzee Yusuf is one of the famous interpreters of this music style. It’s a style that is full of life.

Photography & Text:: Joel Lukhovi

Arusha, Moshi, Dodoma, Morogoro, Dar es Salaam

Photographs for Africa: Ethiopia

Many reasons combined made me make the choice of wanting to visit Ethiopia. Indeed, it is one of the most beautiful countries, I have had the finest opportunity of traveling to. Beautiful and kind people, big churches, very big roads and wonderful natural scenarios including the famous Blue Nile.

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My first stop was in Addis Ababa, thats the Amharic meaning for New Flower. First, you get to ride on line taxis. Line taxis are, as I said, is a convenient and inexpensive way to get around Addis Ababa. Most rides cost either between 2-5 birr. Line taxis are minivans with sliding doors on one side; they hold maybe 12 to 15 people. Most of them are blue and white and are easy to identify, and there are hundreds of them on the roads, weaving in and out of traffic.

The view of Addis Ababa from the surrounding hills.

The view of Addis Ababa from the surrounding hills.

They have a conductor, usually a young man or boy, who pops his head out of the window or gets off at stops and shouts the name of the destination. When I first arrived I had no idea what the conductors were saying, because they speak Amharic so rapidly. Amharic on the other hand is a very charming language, but the phonetics and the pronunciation kept challenging me several times thou in the end i was able to construct a proper full length sentence.

Line taxi navigating the crazy traffic snarl up within the capital of Ethiopia.

Line taxi navigating the crazy traffic snarl up within the capital of Ethiopia.

Well, when I first arrived in Addis I was cautious to take any line taxi. I’m not sure why, maybe I was concerned about being self-conscious as a conspicuous foreigner; then there was the fear of getting on the wrong line taxi and ending up lost in a strange new country place. Over time i have developed the habit of using public means to move around the city whenever i travel. I believe this is rather the best way to tour a new place and get to interect with the locals on a one on one basis. I’m addicted to using public means, and while in Ethiopia, I looked forward every day to my line taxi trips. Every one of them is an experience.

woman buying maize in one of the taxi

So what’s so wonderful about squeezing into a packed line taxi for an hour every day, bumping your head half the time when you get on or off, having sometimes to squat on a small wooden block inches off the floor if there’s no room on the real seats, or scrambling with six or seven other people, aiming to be the lucky one who gets on when a line taxi approaches the stage, with room for just one more?

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I can only say that my experiences with line taxis combine learning about Ethiopia, Ethiopians and Ethiopian culture, having simple yet poignant human interactions that are precious and noticeably less common in other societies.  Getting to see street life and scenes of Addis through the taxi window, and picking up new words of written and spoken Amharic amongst the passengers.

enroute to bahir dar

As I mentioned previously, written Amharic is based on “consonant-sound” combinations that make up a syllabary, which is akin to an alphabet but has well over two hundred characters. The more you mingle among Ethiopian people, the better you learn this fascinating and elegant language. Like a child, I got to learn the syllabary slowly. I kept looking frequently at street signs, food and drink labels, posters, and stickers on the walls and windows of line taxis, carefully trying to pronounce the words. I listen to locals speaking, and I ask, when I’m in stores or cafes, for the shopkeeper or waiter to pronounce the word for bread or milk or potato for me. This was the only way for me to get to learn this beautiful language.

This is one of the methods that i got to learn amharic language.

This is one of the methods that i got to learn amharic language.

If I know an Amharic phrase or word, I practice it, encouraging feedback as praise or correction. Many shop signs have both Amharic and English words together, equivalent to an Amharic-English dictionary, with instant translation. I translated the sounds of characters from the word that was on the letter-head.

One of the meandering roads that drives through to the blue nile.

One of the meandering roads that drives through to the blue nile.

Basically, that’s another reason to love Ethiopia, at least if you’re a foreigner: you get the chance to learn first hand a new, inspiring, fascinating language, from the best teachers of all- local Ethiopians. And what better way to learn it than to live, dine  and breathe among wonderful people who smile when they hear you speak Amharic and are always patient and willing to help you improve.

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There are thirteen months of the year in the Ethiopian calendar: 12 months each with 30 days and a final “month” with five days, or six in a leap year. It can therefore claim to be a capital city with “thirteen months of sunshine.” During the weeks I had arrived there was a rainy season, in Addis, Debre Markos, Bahir Dar, Gondar and Aksum. Despite the wet season, there is  plenty of sunshine between downpours, thou it can be very cold during the night and day as well.

young Habesha girl and boy trade maize for school fees.

Young habesha girl and boy trade maize for school fees.

I think of the excesses that many people have in the world, yet they often don’t enjoy or appreciate them; I’m reminded of how there is so much strife for monetary wealth. To quote the words of my mother, a kind woman who never had much material wealth, and who would give the last penny in her purse to a needy neighbour, “You didn’t bring any money with you into the world and you’re not going to take any with you when you leave.”

Amhara boys covering themselves away from the cold.

Amhara boys covering themselves away from the cold.

Sure, terrible poverty does not breed happiness, but then material excess is not the key either. Somewhere between the two extremes, the Havenots and Havelots, there is a place where the Havegots dwell with contentedness, tolerance, a sense of belonging, humour, compassion and humanity, without greed, prejudice, misguided strife, animosity or arrogance; where the true jewels of life are valued;

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main trading point in badir dar close to the lake tana.

Where there is no greed or selfish exploitation of others, and where the goal for everyone to make life better for everybody else. Knowledge, humility and humanity constitute the currency that makes people truly rich, and the more of these they have and spend, the wealthier they, their children and the society around them become.

beautiful landscape. A blessed country.

A beautiful landscape en route to Addis from Gondar. A blessed country side.

One of my observations was basically, how the ethiopian people and culture is so inter twined that they assist each other whenever a problem arises. During my 13 hour trip from Bahir dar to Addis, I did not fail to realize how the passengers in the mini bus i was traveling in, began contributing money just to offer to the road side monasteries that were up in the hills.

Sudan Ethiopia border

Sudan – Ethiopia border.

This is a common thing that they get to do always when traveling, since it brings more blessing s to them and their journey as well. Generally Ethiopian have a culture of giving and thats what i admired amongst all the things that i got to observe during my stay. I really liked Gondar and was amazed that Ethiopia still has its history intact, 400 years now. Emperor Fasilidas empire and palace still stand at Gondar which was the capital of ethiopia in 1636.

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Emperor Fasilidas main capital of control in the early 1636. 400 years plus and it still stands strong.

Back to the cost of living in Ethiopia, you can eat a tasty main course Ethiopian injera meal in a very reasonable restaurant and have two Meta or Saint George beers to go with it for less than 4 dollars, or have a cup of the best coffee you ever tasted, along with a gigantic piece of invitingly seductive white forest cake, for less than a dollar.

Entrance to the main castle and palace.

Entrance to the main castle and palace.

I must mention that Ethiopia indeed was amazing and am looking to paying another visit to this wonderful country soon if not later.

Photographs for Africa

Photography:  Joe Lukhovi

Literary photograph

I woke up this morning to heavy fog in Masaka town, during my international art residency in Uganda and the feeling was totally exciting. Felt like part of my life was starting all over again. Here are a couple of images i decided to take within a snap and share with the world about this feeling.

Landscape photography always brings a lot of adventures and wonderful sceneries around the world.

Landscape photography always brings a lot of adventures and wonderful sceneries around the world.

The sun was just minutes away from rising up and I felt the contrast of the clouds and the glowing sunlight would just make a perfect shot for the occasion.

Landscape photography means to capture the beautiful places that have been with out any doubt created by God.

Landscape photography means to capture the beautiful places that have been with out any doubt created by God.

Now this is always a difficult one and I’ve spent a good while trying to work out which images represent something about me rather than just about the things I have found or the light that I saw them in. This is a little strange as they aren’t always necessarily my ‘best’ photographs but I’ve added a little text to each one.

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Am motivated by an appreciation of the beauty of the natural environment and a desire to see it preserved.

Land may be desert, mountain, plain, ridge etc. For me nature is not landscape, but the dynamism of visual forces. Landscape photography is proposed to show special spaces within the world, sometimes enormous and never-ending, but other times tiny.

Photography ::  Joe Lukhovi

Portrait from Africa

The 1990’s brought a startling discovery to the international art world: some of the most artful portraiture ever created was produced in Africa over the last century. From the beginning I have always wanted to shoot this collection in East Africa, and this shoot captured what I was trying to do so beautifully. February essentially represents a take on an African aesthetic, and my African heritage coupled with the setting of East African portraiture really gave the concept it’s authenticity.

Portraits from Africa attempts to define the nature of portraiture in the world of art. Meshack Oiro.

Portrait from Africa attempts to define the nature of portraiture in the world of art.  Meshack Oiro.

The need to depict and commemorate individuals is as compelling a motivation for the creation of art in Africa as it is elsewhere. However, in Africa a portrait reveals the subsurface qualities that define the true nature of an individual and reflects the regard for the individual held by members of his community during his lifetime. Emphasis or exaggeration of physical features, a specific characteristic pose or stance, ornamentation or hairstyle, objects or tools associated with a person’s life or work, and actual naming of a piece after the individual are some of the techniques employed. These embodiments are regarded as transmitting more information than a superficial physical likeness. With this understanding of African portraiture, the initially perceived differences among worldwide portraiture cease to exist.

Representational likeness, however controlled is a factor in some african portraits traditions and it would be a mistake to deny its existence.

Photography: Joe Lukhovi

Subject: Meshack Oiro