Ina maisha alisi (Mtwara 2.0) / 2012 

Video: Performance by Isack Peter Abeneko

Ina maisha alisi | Free translation: In our community life, natural life shines through

The project reflects on the power of nature in developing and maintaining communities. In the region of Mtwara (Tanzania) this has particular significance, because the regional/international economy is driven by the mining of and trade in natural resources. Due to newly found resources such as oil and gas, infrastructure is being quickly developed, which both stimulates and obfuscates the local economic and social order.

Local inhabitants are searching for a new balance in life and work. Relying on what nature has to offer, has made for a strong sense of community, for many generations already. But traditional lifestyles are now being challenged by the global trade and its need for a new economical and social order – sometimes colliding with local interests and customs.

This series shows portraits of inhabitants of Mtwara region, and Simbati village. During a collaborative and artistic research trip on site, my colleague I.P.A. interviewed the people we met. I portrayed inhabitants and laborers, sometimes with artificial flowers which I got as a gift from the university of Mtwara during a graduation event. The flowers represent pride and celebration. I’ve used them in my images as a gesture of respect towards local customs.To portray the people of Simbati with flowers also carries a particular significance: the people are emotional about a newly-built gas plant and they feel their interests are sometimes being ignored.  I’ve tried to visualize new dialogues or connections, suitable for a more international audience. And to draw attention to the special character and significance of metals, in surprising and even feminine or sensitive ways.
I’ve done this work as an allusion to my western and Dutch lifestyle as a consumer of mass products and artificial/plastic/industrial nature. At the same time, it was my intention to openly connect with the stories of the people we met, to create special ‘sweet’ moments.

The Wonder Welders workshop in Dar es Salaam, which features in several of the images, offers working opportunities for Tanzanian people with disabilities, as part of an ethical trade project for talented workpeople. It provides the possibility for the laborers to earn an honest wage and start a new life and career, away from begging in the streets and busy intersections in the cities.
The portraits made in Tanzania are connected by a focus on local metal trade, manufacturing and recycling. And of course, the people, community and social life. To show resilience and dignity. Because in the end, people are proud on what Tanzania has to offer to the rest of the world, in natural and economical terms.

Hina maisha halisi | ‘In ons culturele (economische en sociale gemeenschaps-) leven, doorschijnt het natuurlijke leven’

Hoe kan de bevolking meeprofiteren van mijnbouw, olie- en gaswinning?.. In 2012 bezocht ik Mtwara. Een opkomende regio met een rijke biodiversiteit en mengeling van lokale tradities en moderne infrastructuur, zoals de exporthaven. (Inter)nationale bedrijven winnen en verhandelen er mineralen, olie en gas. Hoe (her)gebruiken Tanzanianen natuurlijke materialen en metalen voor consumptie of productie?
De rode draad in mijn foto’s vormt (de weg naar) Simbati town. De weg leidt naar een nieuw gaswinning project. Men wil dat er aandacht is voor lokale gebruiken en de wijze waarop generaties al eeuwen met de natuur leven; dat moderne ontwikkelingen pas plaats vinden nadat dit door autoriteiten erkend wordt.
In Tanzania doorkruisen meerdere discussies over mineralen (goud, tanzaniet, ijzer), gas- en oliewinning elkaar, in de media. Simbati vormt in dit project een poëtische verzamelplaats voor lokale verhalen over handel, gemeenschapsleven en lokaal gebruik van metalen. Men gaat langs ‘Simbati road’ het dorp in, ontmoet de bevolking en diverse werkplaatsen. In Simbati en de steden Mtwara en Dar es Salaam heb ik gefotografeerd, in interactie met mensen op locatie.
De bloemenslinger vormt een symbool van mijn rol als massaproductie-consument en mijn relatief kunstmatige relatie met natuur. Als ook een middel tot oprechte verbinding; tussen mij als fotograaf en de bewoners van onder meer Simbati.’

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