Zanzibar Memoir

This is just a small glimpse of an ongoing project that I started in 1993 on the small island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania in 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. 


It has been an honor to develop friendships, make portraits and share my work with this beautiful Muslim community. 


Please check back as I will be posting more of the corresponding stories in the months ahead.


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Crown Graphic, 4x5 camera.

My first trip to Zanzibar, Tanzania was in 1993. After months traveling overland through East Africa and I only intended to stay a few days. Instead I got stuck waiting an additional seven weeks for my visa to India. So I found a cheap apartment, unpacked my backpack and settled in. As I meandered through the maze of streets in Stone Town, 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 why you are here?” Our mutual curiosity led to daily visits and friendships were born. At the end of my time a familiarity had grown, it was not my home, but somehow I felt like I belonged.


Zanzibar Memoir was created using an old 1930’s Crown Graphic 4x5 camera and Polaroid Type 55 black and white film. I started the project in the pre-digital era, and I chose that camera and film because you can develop the photographs within 2 minutes. This allowed us to work collaboratively.


Today my Zanzibar friends ask why I’m not using an iPhone because it would be so much easier. But I continue to rely on my 90-year-old camera because the meticulous process gives the photo-shoot time to become a more in-depth experience. I have also started using oral-history as a way to collect the stories of each individual, ultimately creating a larger community memoir.


This is a life-long project. With each return I re-photograph many of my same friends and welcome 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. With each interaction we return to the intricate threshold where cultural difference, friendship, and our shared humanity converge.       Please scroll to the right -------->>>


















Big Tree near Mnara Wa Mboa, 2018

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.


















Zainab and Her Friends, 2016

















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

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 Subira's 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.
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.


















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, 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.
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. 



















Kauther, 2018

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.

















Grandmother with her grandchildren in front of their house 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.


















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



















The Sultan's Palace Museum, 2018

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.


















The Coal Seller's Children, 2016



















The Zanzibar Trans-World Academy, 2018

#Wildervision, #BlackBeauty, #Zanzibar, #feedyoureyes


















Marym, 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.


















Zuhra and Hassan, 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, 2018

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.
















4x5 inch negatives hanging to dry in my room.

Using Format