IN PICTURES: Sarah Waiswa's photo series is a bold challenge to old stereotypes

The Ugandan-born photographer uses her talent to raise awareness about the shadowy world inhabited by those still hunted for the supposed magical charms of their condition

08 October 2017 - 00:00 By SARAH WAISWA
Sarah Waiswa says her photo series explores how the sense of non-belonging has led her to wander and exist in a dreamlike state.
Sarah Waiswa says her photo series explores how the sense of non-belonging has led her to wander and exist in a dreamlike state.
Image: Sarah Waiswa

Sarah Waiswa's series of images Stranger in a Familiar Land looks at the dangers and prejudices suffered by people with albinism in Africa. The series was photographed in Nairobi's Kibera squatter camp, the largest urban slum in Africa.

"People fear what they do not understand and, because of this fear, people with albinism continue to be at the receiving end of ridicule and persecution," Waiswa writes in her project statement.

Image: Sarah Waiswa
Image: Sarah Waiswa

NOMAD

Waiswa, who calls herself a nomad, was born in Uganda. Shortly after her birth her family fled to Kenya during Idi Amin's era.

Like many contemporary talents across the continent she explores identity with her powerful images. She says they are "a metaphor for my turbulent vision of the outside world".

Waiswa writes: "The series also explores how the sense of non-belonging has led her to wander and exist in a dreamlike state.

"She is forced to face challenges emanating from both the sun and society."

Image: Sarah Waiswa
Image: Sarah Waiswa

Living with albinism carries great stigma across sub-Saharan Africa.

In parts of the Great Lakes region, people with albinism are regularly killed for their bones and organs, which, according to Amnesty International, are sold to witch doctors for "charms and magical potions".

The Albinism Society of Kenya introduced Waiswa to Florence Kisombe, her model for the series.

"I immediately felt her bold personality. She is very outgoing, wants to be a model, and I knew she would be perfect for the project," Waiswa says.

The UN reported in 2016 that people with albinism in Malawi were at risk of "total extinction". In Tanzania also they are killed for their body parts, which are believed to possess magical powers.

Image: Sarah Waiswa
Image: Sarah Waiswa

Waiswa has just been named by the New York Times as one of the new wave of African photographers to watch.

Like many of her contemporaries, she challenges the tired old stereotypes of the continent.

Waiswa's work was included in an anthology to commemorate the life of social activist Gerald Kraak and his extraordinary legacy of supporting human rights causes. The Jacana Literary Foundation and the Other Foundation are calling for submissions for the second annual Gerald Kraak Award. The Other Foundation works for the right of people of all sexual orientations.

• For more info, email awards@jacana.co.za

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