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.
About a half-hour drive outside of Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, is a little village called Bande. They grow avocados and fruit and sell them by the roadside to survive. We stopped for a visit. The children immediately surrounded us. They spoke Swahili and French. I spoke neither. With help, we asked the village Elder for permission to take this photo. He smiled and nodded agreement. I thought, for a moment, that the one woman in the shot was the mother. Not so. She is the older sister. The women of the village would not come out of their termite-clay-brick huts. The three men in the shot were the older brother, the uncle and the neighbor. The Elder also would not be in the shot. He was standing beside me looking at my view finder. With a small purchase, you can make friends for life in Bande Village.