So for the coming week, I will be running a photo blog. During this time, I will try to post at least one different picture every day and say something about it; about how it inspires me to see things differently.
All the pictures will be of a scene or sight captured in Zimbabwe. And I hope they will help me – and you – understand and see the different faces of this nation; what makes it the nation that it is, and what inspires me to capture it in photography.
So here it goes!
Last week I’d seen a big fiery-red road show truck doing the rounds through my suburb and couldn’t figure out what the noise and dancing was all about (the truck boasted a group of dancers blaring loud music and having a ball). While I knew it all had something to do with Coca Cola, I was not too sure why we were opening happiness (Coke’s tagline) so early into the new year.
I only found out the answer to this conundrum on Saturday afternoon when I happened into the city centre and heard a commotion of noise and cheering throbbing from Harare Gardens, the central park. I was waiting for a friend to pick me up and wasn’t so far from the venue and so decided to wander into the direction to investigate.
And there it was, that same road show truck! A knot of spectators was gathered around it and there was live music playing. Form what I managed to gather, it was the day of the Coca Cola ‘Pimped Up Ride’ grand draw to give away a few brand new vehicles to some lucky competitors. And to add to the fanfare, there would be live performances by some of Zimbabwe’s best-known contemporary musicians.
What luck to fall into such a windfall of action! Well, that’s what I thought until I realised how self-conscious I felt about navigating my way through such a crowded area with my SLR camera on me. You see, usually when you are identified as wielding a large weapon of mass distraction (a camera or some such other device), you get these violent and antagonistic responses – either people fear you or experience bouts of fascination about you. A camera often has the effect of de-neutralising a lot of people’s response towards you; people who would not ordinarily notice you but do because you have a contraption in your hands that could record and store a part of themselves.
As I brought out my camera, I instantly felt the wave of judgement. And I didn’t like it. I thought to put it back into its bag and just saunter off, defeated. But I held on to some hope and soldiered on. I just slung the big sucker around my neck and kept carving my way through the crowds, hoping that I’d find a few carefree revellers who didn’t mind a few clicks.
My first shots were awful, woeful even; out of focus, blurry and taken with fear more than any artistic flair. Because they were ‘stolen’, through my most ardent efforts to be discreet, they were just not up to any standard of repute.
And then I stumbled upon the scene that would change everything. Two revellers, obviously having the time of their lives, had made a space for themselves amid the tight crowd. Baba Shupi, one of Zimbabwe’s most popular singers, was singing the hit song of 2011 ‘Godo’ and everyone in the area had come alive; as though an electric surge had gone through everything.
The two men summoned me towards them and happily urged me to take photos as one of them tried to balance a half-full bottle of Sprite on the backside of the other. It was a hilarious scene, replete with audacity and fun; and I was pulled into their exhilaration instantly.
After that, I felt more confident to wander around and try my hand at different angles. I somehow felt accepted, welcomed even.
So what’s the lesson in this? Fear is everywhere. Sometimes it can be everything. But a friendly welcome, a sense of acceptance and appreciation, can melt fear and build confidence. In continuing to have their fun and allowing me to be a part of it, those two men allowed me to have my own share of fun.
Today, how can your smile or welcoming arm help someone else shed their fears or doubts and be themselves?