I’m in Dar es Salaam, the “unofficial” capital of Tanzania and its largest city, set on the hot and steamy edge of the Indian Ocean. I’m working here – as a photographer – for an international NGO and today am wading – and stumbling –my way through a large sprawling mountain of trash and other things I would rather not identify too closely. In and around this mass of human and material waste are houses and dwellings, men and women, families, children, people all caught up in the midst of this urban sprawl. It’s hot and unbearably humid, I am a cold weather girl despite living in Africa for 20 years.
Increasingly this is what I do in my job as a Documentary and Commercial photographer, spending time in marginalized communities and mostly covering topics that involve women and children. It’s this aspect of my career that I have become increasingly passionate about and it’s in these areas – where people can be so easily forgotten about and are often those who suffer the most – which is where I meet those who are without doubt the most unforgettable.
A warm welcome from Grace Isaya, a wonderful woman I met on a recent trip to Uganda. She lives with her husband Augustine in dry and dusty Bobol village in the centre of the country. I remember they also had an orchard, growing oranges, which Augustine very proudly showed us during a tour of their plot. Thanks to a clean water pump, recently installed in the centre of the village, it means less time walking many kms to collect water and more time to spend on crops and on family life, in their case with children and grandchildren. What was so apparent in being with Grace and Augustine was what a happy and respectful marriage they had, “he helps me around the house” she said with a laugh.
The three children of Donald & Mary Musa, a young couple living in Morogoro in Southern Tanzania, come running to greet me as I arrive at their house in the Uluguru Mountains. Mary had recently given birth to their fourth child, a girl, and it had been a successful and easy birth. Basic things like the availability of clean water in labour wards and health clinics, something that we so often take for granted, is in short supply in many places like this and it is one of the biggest factors that affect maternal and child health.
Young Maasai warriors conduct the ceremony known as ‘ol pul’ in an area east of the Serengeti in northern Tanzania. The Maasai roam freely here in this community land, cattle and wildlife often seen together. Because of this, the cattle are herded into thorn hedge bomas at night, to protect them from ever-present lion and other eager predators. At an ‘ol pul’ an animal (in this case a goat) is slaughtered and the blood – still warm – is mixed with milk and then drunk; the meat is cooked over an open fire close by. An ol pul ceremony can last all day and is a cause for great celebration.
A pregnant woman leaves a maternity clinic in Juba, South Sudan in 2012. South Sudan has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world; in 2012 there were only 8 registered midwives in the country serving a population of around 10 million. For every 100,000 births, over 2,000 mothers were dying and ninety percent of women were giving birth away from formal medical facilities and without the help of professionally trained assistants. One of the biggest problems they still face, beyond lack of training, equipment and facilities, is a country that has been through decades of civil war – Africa’s longest running – with strife continuing. My job was to capture the daily lives of the midwives in the wards as they dealt with all the women coming – often too late and with serious complications – to give birth.
Twice a year, a team of American Plastic Surgeons join the doctors and nurses at the Arusha Lutheran Medical Centre, in Arusha, northern Tanzania, travelling from the US and donating their time to help the children of The Plaster House (theplasterhouse.org) and greater Arusha. The children – like 12-year-old Daniel who listens nervously whilst the surgical team discuss the operation they are about to perform on him – are brought here with a variety of injuries and disabilities: from cleft lips and palates to burn scar contractures with injuries often sustained from falling into cooking fires. Without the doctors help, it is likely that these largely operable conditions would never be fixed.
Joining us today is commercial and documentary photographer, Eliza Deacon. Based just outside of Arusha, northern Tanzania, Eliza has been commissioned by the World Food Programme, UNFAO, WaterAid, IRIN.org as well as other international NGOs with projects throughout East Africa. You may view Eliza’s stunning photography at Eliza Deacon Photography.
Thank you, Eliza for joining us today!