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

 

Nile Project | Music of the Nile

A musical project aiming to create spaces for rich cultural interaction between Nile Basin countries launched its music gathering in Nairobi, Kenya at Kuona Trust Arts Centre.

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The second edition of the musical residency — lead by Miles Jay — brings together 14 talented musicians from Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Sudan and Uganda who will, in a collaborative manner, compose a body of songs inspired by the Nile Basin’s diversity in music traditions and instruments.

alsarah performing

This year, the nile project plan was to build on the success of last year by inviting a more diverse pool of musicians, expanding its performance circuit to more Nile Basin countries, and launching the project’s education and innovation programmes at partner universities.

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The Nile Project not only utilises music as a common language, to bridge gaps across diverse cultures that exist around the Nile, but also hosts ‘Nile Workshops’ at universities, starting with Egyptian universities in late last year.

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The African tour set to take place this year’s residency will include not only concerts promoting the new musical collaboration but also talks and workshops on sustainability and development challenges of the Nile at universities in Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt.

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In addition to the workshops, the crew is launching ‘The Nile Prize’ targeted at students who develop innovative solutions to regional challenges. These projects will be supported by the programme over the span of one year.

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Through music and workshops, the Nile Project sets out to expose audiences to the music of neighbouring countries and offer a space of open dialogue around Nile issues. The project aims to connect the 11 nations, and 437 million people, who live around the Nile but that often fail at recognising themselves as a region.

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Due to polarisation in these countries caused by tense political relations and conflicting media coverage, especially recently with the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam capturing headlines around the world, the Nile Project attempts to offer an alternative path for dialogue and communication among Nile Basin citizens.

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This is the Nile Project, celebrating the Nile day at Kuona Trust Arts Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.

Photography:: Joel Lukhovi

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.

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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: 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

Stone Town – A shared history

As soon as I set my foot in Zanzibar island, I could just feel the unending joy and passion of what this town had to offer. The fantastic weather and the wonderful people truly charmed my heart.

The main means of transport in Zanzibar. It allows easy movement of commuters in the small streets.

The main means of transport in Zanzibar. It allows easy movement of commuters in the small streets.

It soon came to my notice about the traditional culture that this island holds. The people, mode of transport, food and the white sandy beaches that reflected the magnificent sun that sets each and every day slowly across the western horizon, ushering in a night full of rejuvenated energy and action. This is the Zanzibar International Film Festival in Stone Town.

performance As I later came to understand, this was my very first 16th ZIFF 2013 film festival and as a creative, I was looking forward to documenting the unfolding events at the venue. My camera on my neck and sandals, I kept moving across the town collecting moments that would cover entire stay at the island. I wanted to scream to the world about the joy of the town and the ever traditional culture.

Common means of movement in the island.

Common means of movement in the island.

Despite the trends in modernity that the world has aspired to get to, and the thousands of people that visit the island, there is one thing that stands in Zanzibar, and that is the swahili tradition that the islanders have kept all along. Many people from varying nationalists all over the world visit Zanzibar, but what stands out is the magnificent culture, that the community holds.

A boat sailing back to the port after a day of work.

A boat sailing back to the port after a day of work.

Stone Town, Zanzibar it was then. I have to mention in a few but the craze of writing will keep this text going for a while. The atmosphere was wanting for the Zanzibar Internatonal Film Festival initially known as the Dhow festival. At its 16th year, the festival has indeed remained to be one of the biggest art and film festivals that is dominating the East and Central African region. I must say that am greatly honored having been a part of the ZIFF 2013 as a photographer.

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Excitement is in the air with the ongoing Zanzibar International Film Festival, thousands of people around town are visiting locations to view the film screenings, attend workshops and be a part of the total Film and Cultural experience that ZIFF 2013 offers.

an hour and a half. I kept getting a long exposure of the ship that docked at the port.

An hour and a half. I kept getting a long exposure of the ship that docked at the port.

Children naturally grow up wanting to be like their parents, and some actually do. Children of actors becoming actors, children of musicians becoming musicians, and I’m sure there are some children of accountants who become accountants. (Okay, maybe not that last one.) but one thing that normally stands out is the fact that art is the driving force of the society.

This snake charmer amazed the crowd during the ZIFF award ceremony at the amphitheatre.

This snake charmer amazed the crowd during the ZIFF award ceremony at the amphitheatre.

One of the staples of the ZIFF is the festival’s amphitheater screenings which brings together viewers and selected films in the industry to discuss their craft and offer inside insights on what it is like to be a working director, screenwriter, actor, or composer. It was an interesting show with the East Africans and the rest of the world sharing the experience of composing for films while a couple had avoided some of those studio pressures to pave their own way through the industry.

Sunset at the indian ocean in Zanzibar.

Sunset at the indian ocean in Zanzibar.

Most of the actions took place at the old Fort that acted a while back as the main arena for bringing people together and admire art. I made my way further, just across at the Forodhani public space, which is the main food court that residents come to get food. Apart from ZIFF which came to a closure on the 7th, I was able to capture some images that tell the story of Zanzibar from an artist’s impression. I cannot wait to do another visit.

Stone Town, Zanzibar

Photography: Joel Lukhovi

Hawo’s Portraiture

It’s not that I closed off my heart, it’s just that I’ve gotten so used.

Sometimes in my life, I have felt discarded. Left behind. At times, it would happen at what seemed to be the most inconvenient moment, when both my ego and heart really couldn’t sustain another setback or disappointment. Just when I was starting to “get it” or “figure it out” (we’re always “figuring things out” or “working on thing”), I would feel the sting of disappointment.

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Well, I have figured something out once and for all, and I wanted to share it with you. It’s the realization that, just because we have lost our way or been displaced from what we’ve known in the past, we are just as loveable and just as whole. A great jacket sitting in a lost and found is still a great jacket. A great person having a tough time is still a great person.

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“Sometimes a man gets worn thin, on the brink of a break of an almost-there win.”

When the storms of life would roll in on me, I would find myself trying not to collapse too far inward, which seemed lonely. But I also didn’t quite have the energy to take a confident next step to relieve my isolated feeling.

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What I discovered while writing was renewed energy in the understanding that I was not alone. I was worthy, always had been, and was no less so just because I felt “lost.”

“You’d be surprised if you’d just look around. You’d find me, find me at the lost and found.“

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Wherever the winds of your life may blow you, your true north is always inside you. Even when you’re lost.

Dedication to Safia

Photography :: Joe Lukhovi