Here’s to the African children who appeared before me in unexpected places and times. The sisters holding brothers and brothers holding sisters. The tiny actors and actresses and the eyes of those who seemed to hold wisdom I had yet to acquire. I don’t know your names; I did not ask. I’d not remember anyway, something you’ll understand when you get older. Our worlds are very different. I know you will not experience life as I have and I know I could not live in the world you inhabit. You’re far more sturdy than I. I pray the individual that is you thrives in spite of your living and loving conditions. May you find that which makes your heart sing. Though for most existing will be your destiny and provide little about which to sing–sing anyway. Regardless, I found you irresistible and brimming with potential. I felt like God’s hands held us both if only for a fleeting moment in space and time.
Cape Town, South Africa
Victoria and Albert Waterfront
A young boy caught my attention while toddling along with his mother. He was curious and permitted me to get close. He didn’t know what to make of seeing himself on my iPhone.
Liuwa Plains National Park
After our guide secured space on a ferry crossing a river, several women with children boarded. I did not ask permission to photograph their babies. I could tell by side-ways glances and facial expressions the mothers were uncomfortable with me. I’m not sure why I didn’t ask.
He didn’t pose. He stood still and confident outside the building where we registered to enter the park.
Two adults and a boy/man passed us while we were out on a late afternoon game drive. They were hungry. Our guide asked if it was okay to give them the food we had leftover from our sundowners. Absolutely!
Crater Lakes, Uganda
Baby brother was skeptical. Who are you and what do you want with me?
Big brother and little brother had accompanied their mother who was washing sweet potatoes in the clear water.
Batwa Pygmy Village
When the Ugandan government established the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to protect the trees and animals, in 1992, the Batwa Pygmies were violently thrown from their native lands. It was believed they were responsible for deforestation and killing gorillas. The collateral damage of laying snares and setting traps for other animals did result in the killing of some gorillas, but pygmies consider gorillas family. The Batwas do not eat gorilla meat and deforestation is counter to their style of living. They gather the bounty of the forest for medicine and food and have been so doing for 500,000 years.
Responsibility for clearing the forest, poaching, and grazing cattle lies with the Bantu People who moved in and desecrated the very land the Batwas held sacred before the Ugandan government decreed the forests off limits. Because they are hunter- gatherers, the Batwa could claim no legal rights to the forest. They received no compensation whatsoever for the ancestral land they had inhabited peacefully and responsibily for centuries.
Today they live in small villages on the fringe of a society within which they are shunned. Their only source of income is money and food donations for which the Batwa perform dances and sing. A few work on farms, but transitioning from hunting and gathering to farming, has not been successful. A once competent, purposeful people, who lived simply in the forest among the mountain gorillas have been reduced to near starvation and humiliation. Alcoholism is prevalent. In the process of saving the wildlife, the Batwa have become, as investigative reporter Mark Dowie writes: “conservation refugees.”
That’s not a sweet potato!
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest
This little guy stole the roadside show where he and his older friends were playing on a ridge near a terraced tea plantation.
Kibale Forest National Park, Uganda
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
A budding actor.
Grande Provence Wine Farm
Stellenbosch, South Africa
Christmas Day, 2017