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Djibouti’s Artists

I wrote for a couple of books last year and didn’t get to see the actual books for months and months. But now, I have them in hand and am happy to share them with you.

I wrote the introduction to an art book and have one (my first) published photograph in the other.

Here are the books and where you can find them.

Imago Mundi, the Luciano Benetton Collection. Art that breaks the isolation: Contemporary artists from Djibouti, Central African Republic, and Chad

The book is a gorgeous, hardcover collection of paintings from these African nations, with translation in English, French, and Italian. I was asked to write the introduction for Djibouti’s artists, one of the biggest honors I’ve felt so far in my writing work.

My intro is titled Djiboutian Paintings: Revealing What Is Hidden and it is based on the line by Rumi, in Story Water,

Water, stories, the body,

All the things we do, are mediums

That hide and show what’s hidden

The book brings together art and artists, who usually work in isolation here, and cumulative effect is one of beauty, depth, and hope.

This book is available from the Frabica store in Italy, here.

Other books from the collection are available on Amazon, like this one featuring artists from Senegal.


And here’s the book with my photo in it.

En Verden Af Fodbold, by Pelle Mortensen

This is a compilation of incredible football (soccer) photographs from all over the world, including one from Djibouti, one of the few photos showing girls playing football.

The photos are so much fun, kids and adults enjoying play in front of the Eiffel Tower, in Marakesh, barefoot, on beaches, Mogadishu, mountains, schools…

The captions are not translated into English, but the book still makes a fabulous coffee table book for football lovers anywhere.

You can purchase a copy here.

It isn’t available on Amazon but if you only buy stuff from this one behemoth and are inspired to purchase a book like En verden af fodbold, here’s another football (soccer) photography book: Magnum Soccer.

A Wedding, Men in Makeup, and Taking Photos

Quick link: The Voyeur at the Wedding

Last Friday I had a piece up at EthnoTraveler about being a guest, a foreigner, a photographer, and the complicated emotions that swell up with that wonderful combination. I love being those things and I don’t love being those things at the same time. I get confused about when it is appropriate to take a picture and when not to, about when I can stare and when not to. How would I feel if a group of foreigners came to my wedding and started taking pictures? I don’t think I would mind but it didn’t happen so how do I know?

the voyeur at the wedding

I had never seen men put on makeup. I knew some men wore makeup, but I had never watched them apply it. That is, until I sat with the groom of an Afar wedding in rural Djibouti. I’ve been to a lot of weddings in Djibouti but always with the women. Friends, or friends of friends. This time I was a tourist visiting an encampment in the mountainous region of northern Djibouti and didn’t know the names of the bride or groom. I never even saw the bride.

We had hired a guide for the weekend. He led us on hikes, or gathered groups of young boys to guide us while he searched out meat for our lunch. While I stumbled over rocky paths and rolled my ankles and slipped down loose scree, these boys in plastic flip flops loped effortlessly over the ground. They carried no water (I had two liters for my family of five) and no food (I had two boxes of granola bars and a tube of Oreo cookies to share with our whole tour group of nine). They needed no rest (we stopped twice on the way up and once on the way down) and they needed no recovery time (I felt like I could barely move that afternoon)…

And later at the wedding:

…A flurry of conflicting emotions swirled in my chest. I felt utterly uncomfortable and out of place. I felt like an invasive species, like the strangling fig tree. I felt honored, a stranger in this inner chamber on an auspicious day. And I felt inspired by the friendship between these two men, the way they understood each other, the willingness to serve, the intimacy of their gestures…

Click here to read the rest of the story The Voyeur at the Wedding

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