LESSONS IN SILENCE FROM THE WILD

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"No domestic animal can be as still as a wild animal. The civilized people have lost the aptitude of stillness, and must take lessons in silence from the wild before they are accepted by it. The art of moving gently, without suddenness, is the first to be studied by the hunter, and more so by the hunter with the camera."

 
 


Hunters cannot have their own way, they must fall in with the wind, and the colours and smells of the landscape, and they must make the tempo of the ensemble their own. Sometimes it repeats a movement over and over again, and they must follow up with it.” (Karen Blixen)

My first job out of law school was investigating Kenya’s 2007 post-election violence. In 2012, I stepped onto the African continent for the first time and, over the next year, in between drafting witness statements and developing legal case theory, I spirited away to corners of Kenya in tiny planes, dhow boats, and four-wheel drive vehicles.

The country’s oldest town lives on Lamu Island—a destination on the Kenyan archipelago dripping with Swahili and Islamic culture. Lamu tastes of gritty, salty water. It smells of donkey dung and frangipani flowers. The buildings are made (tetris’d actually) from handmade sea coral bricks. Calls to prayer summon the spiritual fives times daily. Women in flowing fabrics scurry among the alleys so narrow they could be mistaken for gutters. They’re too narrow for anything wider than a donkey’s ass, so people use donkeys for transport around Lamu town. There are no roads and no cars in this pocket of a place. Somali pirates are known to frequent these parts. Over the years they’ve even kidnapped a muzungu or two. I searched for the one-eyed buccaneers, but I could only find fishermen and sailors.
 

 
 
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Photography Brigitte Hamadey