Thursday, September 19, 2013



I am mzungu . White man. They call to me in friendly tones and smile, and I wave back. As far as I can see, across all the bobbing black heads, I am the only mzungu in Kampala.

People are walking everywhere on the variously intact and broken footpaths that line the mud-rendered traffic-packed asphalt, yet the hotel staff thought it was strange that I wanted to walk into town.

"Bad idea", one of them said. She was likely concerned that I would be pickpocketed rather than mugged. Kampala isn't Nairobi. Violent crime is rare. I have read. So, blissfully confident in this, I sauntered past the "No guns" signs in the foyer and marched out the hotel gate, bidding adieu to the guards checking with mirrors under cars for bombs.

I pass by the Electoral Council of Uganda, a minor fortress with police in fatigues wielding shotguns posted outside long, whitewashed, razor-wired walls. The whitewash is wonderfully glazed with informational paintings and bold instructions on the democratic process: "Participate in elections by organising democratic rallies"; "You must be registered to vote." I approach one of the gun-toting officers and, extending my journalism credentials, ask him if I can shoot the building. (Okay, I said "photograph the building".) He tells me to go inside to ask permission, but the guards want me to leave my backpack at the gate until they can verify that I am who I say I am, and not someone simply wanting to get into the Electoral Commission of Uganda with a backpack full of C4. I'm not too keen on leaving it unattended as it actually contains expensive camera equipment, so I decline and move on.

As it turns out, I don't shoot Kampala at all. Though everything is in a constant state of deterioration, incompletion and perpetual repair, the city is utilised and occupied, and I want to capture its dirty, bustling life. But Kampala's sole mzungu flashing around his fancy Canon is not a good look.

1 comment:

MilazzoMan said...

Why do I get the feeling that reading this blog is like some 21st Century version of watching a '70s snuff-movie? Guns, disease, kidnappers just across the border, more AK-47s per square metre than bimbos at a Berlusconi orgy. I keep waiting for some dark event to suddenly stop the typing slap-bang mid-senten......

Happy travels, happy blogging, Wayne!