They say Africa changes you. If you’ve been to Africa, spent time there, visited the people, you will understand. I’ve been to Africa four times. This was my first time in Lubumbashi. I was surprised. My own stereotypes were both reinforced and shattered. In Lubumbashi, a fragile peace hung over the city as oppressive as the heat and humidity, infusing a cultural angst almost as heavy . I was the outsider. I was different. The children called me “Muzungu”, white face, not a compliment. They smiled and laughed, not with me. My camera lens brought them running, surrounding me, dancing, playing and posing. In their eyes I saw joy, and innocence. The adults looked on, skeptical, questioning, challenging. Their eyes were reserved, hooded, holding back, keeping their stories from me. Many turned away. Some shouted insults. Those that did not were watching to see what I would do with their likeness. I took their pictures. I took them with me. I took them in, a part of me. I will not forget. In their African eyes I will never be the same.
These boys could not resist posing for the camera as we left their homes on the Lubumbashi River.
Shouldering many of the parenting responsibilities, a young girl carries her baby brother on her back.
Stylishly dressed in a green leopard print, this young girl has just one dress.
Her dress didn’t fit. The buttons were missing, but, she was still beautiful.
He’d just come out of the river, the mud still on his face. My camera drew him to me, with all his friends. The children called me Muzungu–white face.
When I showed him this picture, he laughed and laughed. So did his buddies.
When I tried to take her picture, she would hide her face and then laugh. When I showed her pictures of her friends, she opened up enough to let take this photo.
They were inseparable. She was delightful. He was protective.
Joyful–I couldn’t help but smile in her presence.
Who was I? Why was I there? I could feel the quiet challenge in his stare.
He wanted me to see his basketball jersey–the LA Lakers. I don’t think he knew anything about basketball, or the Lakers. The Jersey was purple, and it came from America. We had something in common. He was proud of that.
Some NGO dropped used clothing on the banks of the river. The children chose the brightest. Washing in the Lubumbashi river keeps those colors clean and vibrant.
Hurrying to see what the commotion surrounding us was all about, he came out of the river, still dripping.
The secret to such smooth, smooth skin could be found in the mud of Lubumbashi River.
After interviewing his nephew, I held up my camera and pointed toward him. He nodded and I took his picture. His eyes tell stories I’ll never hear.
A popular gathering place for Congolese, the town square has both political and artistic significance for residents of Lubumbashi.
Inconspicuously holding up the wall of his home, a shy young boy waits with his cat.
In one of the nicer homes in Lubumbashi, this kitchen features a few pots and a charcoal barbecue for cooking.
A tangible symbol of the province’s mining industry, Lubumbashi Mountain rises above the farms and villages surrounding the city.
Lubumbashi Mountain is made from the left over materials from the mines surrounding Lubumbashi.
With much practice and good posture, you too can learn to carry your worldly possessions on the top of your head.
It was hot in Lubumbashi, and humid. When the storm finally broke and the rain poured down, it turned the roads to mud.
Thatched roofs and termite mound bricks make up the main ingredients of huts in Bande Village.
The Village Elder gave us permission to take a picture, but, the women of the village, the mothers wouldn’t come out of their huts to be in the shot.
Women and children gather on the banks of the Lubumbashi river to do their laundry.
The Lubumbashi River is the local bathing, swimming and washing place, as well as the source of drinking water and sanitation removal.
Older sister and two brothers walk through their neighborhood.
Boys watch and wonder what we are doing with our really big cameras.
This boy was full of life and laughter, posing for our cameras.
This boy watched us carefully and curiously, not approaching, yet, not withdrawing.
Unemployment is high in Lubumbashi. Many young men simply can not find work.