Sarah Waiswa: Exploring identity on the African continent through photography
Sarah Waiswa is a Ugandan born Kenya based documentary and portrait photographer with a keen interest in exploring identity on the African continent, particularly the New African Identity.
What triggered our keen interest in Sarah Waiswa’s work revolves around a trans-Africa photo project she is undertaking in conjunction with Joel Lukhovi called African Citizens. The aims of the project Sarah Waiswa mentions elsewhere is to:
travel over land to all the 54 countries in Africa within the next 5 years documenting daily city life as me and my partner Joel pass through. By making this journey and visually capturing life in the different cities, we believe that we will be able to establish that the similarities connecting us as Africans far outweigh the differences and histories that divide us as a people.
African Cityzens has successfuly moved across Zanzibar, Eastern and the greater Southern Africa regions.
Sarah holds degrees in Sociology and Psychology and worked in the corporate world before transitioning into a professional photographer.
It is a pleasure to have Sarah on MyWeku Tastes to tell us a bit more about herself and her work.
How would you characterise your photography journey so far?
It has been progressive. When I first picked up a camera I was doing it as a means to express my joy at being back on the continent and my appreciation for the things I had taken for granted. As time goes by now, I use it to express myself both about how I feel about certain social situations, or just documenting what I see.
How important is telling and documenting the African story to you?
It is very important, I live it! Our story has been so one sided, told by a foreign lens time and time again. It is important to me that in the future, when my children see images of Africa, that they will be able to connect with the story and the story teller.
Tell us about Africancytizens?
African Cityzens is a project that Joel Lukhovi and I run. It came about because of the passion we both have for travel around the continent and photography. We realised that one of the biggest hurdles for Africans traveling around the continent, was that it was too expensive. We wanted to explore movement across the continent, and also identity as we traveled.
What has been the highlights and the challenges so far on the Africancytizens project?
Finding the funds to do it. Getting access to different countries. For example we find that getting visas for some countries to be almost impossible, as the requirements make it seem like they do not want other Africans visiting there. Also in some countries, photography in the streets is not as welcome.
Have you been to a place where you’ve failed to find beauty to document?
No! Each place is beautiful in its own way.
Share with us, your all time favourite image and tell us why you accord it the top spot.
That is difficult for me. I like different photos for different reasons depending on the context.
If you had to travel just to sample the delights of a country’s cuisine, which countries would you choose to go to and what dishes will be on your list?
I love South East Asian Food, so Thailand and Vietnam.. for some soup and noodle dishes.
I would go to Jamaica for some jerk chicken.
I would go to Nigeria for some Jollof rice.
I would go to Egypt for some Fool and Tameya!
Which of these places will you love to document if you had to choose and why? Havana or Kampala? Venice or Lagos? Istanbul or Delhi? Marrakesh or Beijing?
Havana! I have access to Kampala at any time, and photograph there frequently. Lagos, I have heard so much about it. Delhi. India is one for the most culturally rich and diverse countries in the world and I have always wanted to travel there. Marrakesh – the bohemian in me, believes I was born here in another life.
What do people not know about you that you wish they did?
I am socially awkward, when I am in an unfamiliar space I prefer to watch and listen than speak.
What is the one piece of advice you would like to give to a photography hobbyist thinking about turning pro?
Do it for the right reasons and be prepared to work extra hard. I think we are living in a society now that wants instant gratification, instant fame. To become great you have to be prepared to push yourself beyond your limits, and the only way you can do this is if you are truly passionate about it.