Zanzibar Memoir

A first glimpse of the work from my recent return to Zanzibar in November 2016. This is an ongoing project I have been working on for 23 years - rephotogaphing the same people - collecting the stories of this beautiful Muslim community off the coast of East Africa. 


All of these photographs are made with my old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 Polaroid film. Please check back - i will be adding several more images in the coming weeks. 


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Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.



















Eddy, Super Black Magic

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.


















Baobab Tree near Bungi Village, 2016

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.
Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.










Agnes, 1998


Agnes was one of the first people I photographed when I started this project in 1998. She was brave to participate; it was a new experience for both of us. I was still becoming familiar with my large 1930’s Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the Type 55 Polaroid film and we were both anxious to see if it would actually work. After Agnes saw the first image of herself, she took and deep breath and said “Bring the camera closer Laena, I want to look into the camera.”

 

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.


















The Coal Seller's Children

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.

















Ibrahim, 2016

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.
















Vuga Road, Stone Town, 2016

#Wildervision, #BlackBeauty, #Zanzibar, #feedyoureyes


















Marym

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.
Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.






Makame and Subira 2007, 2016


Makame’s wife’s name Subira means ‘patience’ - to have the ability to wait, to be patient. Twenty-three years ago Makame and Saburi met because they lived near each other, he remembers the exact date, it was October 10th, 1993. He told me he knew right away it was love. 


Usually a gift is given to the bride’s family when a marriage takes place; sometimes it is money 100,000, 200,000 or more Tanzanian Shillings. For five years they dated before Makame was prepared to ask for her hand in marriage. They now have a beautiful family with eight children and a home in Magogoni village.

 

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.


















Zulekha, 2016

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.


















Riziki and Fatma  

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.
Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.






Nassor and Shemsa, 2007, 2016


Shemsa and Nassor were no longer married when I returned to Zanzibar in 2016. Shemsa and I agreed it would be worthwhile to make another portrait, even if Nassor was not in it. As I set up my tripod and camera, Shemsa positioned herself in the exact place she had previously been seated. Then, as if out of nowhere, Nassor appeared. He was just walking by. None of us could believe the serendipitous timing - a complete coincidence. We all laughed and agreed that the new photograph should include both of them. It was heartening to see the enduring friendship they had developed over the years and with the changes. 

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.
Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.

The Peace Lovers Soccer Team, 2007, 2016 


In 2007, as I finished photographing Shemsa and Nassor, I heard someone behind me say “We are ready for you now”. I turned around to see these young men, who I had not yet met, patiently posing for a self-declared team photo. I followed their lead. I later learned they had all run home for their matching uniforms in preparation for that moment.


There were 10 players on the Peace Lovers Soccer Team, they stayed together for ten years and they started playing together when they were ten years old. The boys were not in a league and never played against another team, instead they played with each other. They also studied together at the Al-Barky Koran School, which provided them with the matching soccer uniforms. The friends met up almost everyday to play ‘street games’ in their neighborhood of Stone Town.


When I reunited with a few of them nine years later, Saad (front left) was happy for the earlier memory, saying it was the only photograph he had of himself from that time in his life. 

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.


















Police Officers, 2016

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.


















Issa 2016

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.

















Mathew Joseph and His Stone Town Neighbors, 2016

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.












Munira, 2016


“My name is Munira. I’m 30 years of age. I’m from Iringa, Tanzania. I’ve been in Zanzibar since 1998. I work at an international radio statin in Zanzibar. I’m happy with my life I enjoy spending Sunday by the seaside, I have one daughter and I love my family especially my Mum and child.” 

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.


















Zainab and Her Friends, 2016

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.












Ashanti and Ahmed, 2016


“My name is Ahmed Aboud Juma. I’m 16 years of age and I was born 10/23/2000. I study at the Fuoni School, I am in form two, class ten. This picture was taken with my sister, her name is Ashanti, she is in class five. When I finish school my dream is to become a football player so that I can help my family in their future life.” 

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.


















Hassan and His Wife, 2007

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.


















Marym, Fishseller, 2016

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.


















Makame

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.















Family Home near Bungi Village, 2016

Zanzibar Memoir


My first trip to Zanzibar was in 1993, I had just spent three months traveling overland through Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania and only intended to stay in Zanzibar a few days. Instead I got stuck waiting an additional seven weeks for my visa to India. As I meandered through the labyrinthine streets of Stone Town, it was only a matter of days until the locals sitting in front of their homes began engaging me in conversation: “You have walked by me for several days now, sit down and tell me who you are and why you are here.” A sparked mutual curiosity led to daily conversations and deeper connections, soon I began to feel like I belonged. My unexpected ‘holding-tank’ time in Zanzibar ended up being more meaningful than I could have imagined.


Recently I made my fifth visit to the island. I have been making photographs, forging friendships, and sharing my work with the community for twenty-three years.


In 1998 I started Zanzibar Memoir using my old 1930’s Crown Graphic 4x5 camera, Polaroid Type 55 (and most recently New55 film). It was the pre-digital era and I chose that particular camera and film because it allowed my subjects to see their image and provide input within minutes of taking the portrait. It is important to me to share the power of representation by making it a collaborative process. 


Today, I continue to rely on this 80-year-old camera because the slow meticulous process gives the photo-shoot time to become a more in-depth personal and cultural exchange.


Since the beginning, this body of work has unfolded organically. I have returned every nine years with my Crown Graphic, re-photographing many of the same people and welcoming new participants. I have witnessed children becoming adults, young people leaving the island in search of a better future, families growing and friends passing away.


On my last trip, in the Fall of 2016, I started experimenting with storytelling in the form of first person handwritten narratives. Although this project started out as purely photographic, over the past decade I have developed a professional practice and passion for oral history and story collection. With that I have grown a deep appreciation for the value of stories combined with photographs to express a more inclusive and comprehensive narrative, erode stereotypes and augment cultural awareness. These subtle and sometimes dramatic shifts in perspective are available for both the viewer and those of us at the genesis of the shared creative process. On my next trip this project will evolve yet again, as I will start collecting oral histories along with making portraits.


Like a seed unexpectedly planted, back in 1993, those first experiences of mutual curiosity are still alive and decades later nourish this vibrant creative exchange. With each interaction we keep returning to an ongoing engagement with the line drawn by the history and discourse of “the other”. Zanzibar Memoir serves as both catalyst and enduring witness to this process. Together the community members and I continue to navigate the intricate threshold where dramatic cultural difference and an undeniable shared humanity converge. 

Laena Wilder's Zanzibar Memoir, a beautiful collection of portraits and stories she has collected over the past 23 years, using an old 1930's Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and the New55 and old type 55 film.
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