Aged nineteen, I fell for a Zanzibari boy while on a teaching placement on his island. My relationship to Zanzibar was hugely influenced by my feelings for Saidi; both instinctive and beguiling. With no shared map of how a relationship might work, ours was clumsy and unpredictable but constantly exciting.
As a young photographer I wanted to offer an alternative to the tired media portrayal of a 'hopeless Africa', but felt concerned by the position I found myself in as a white-girl-with-a-camera. I recognised that my interactions were influenced by my foreign-ness; perhaps my whiteness, my relative wealth or my femininity. Doors were opened to me that might otherwise not have been. While this unearned status helped me to meet the people I photographed, I was concerned that it also compromised the authenticity of my stories and my right to tell them. This status, reflecting a colonial inheritance, is experienced widely by Westerners and viewed in a multiplicity of ways by Africans. My work looks to explore this rarely addressed dynamic from the intimate perspectives of African-British families, living in various countries across the African continent.
The stereotype of romances between Africans and outsiders is usually one of exploitation; perhaps the African woman is the plaything of a powerful white man, or maybe the older European woman cruises the beach for a muscle-bound holiday romance. However, less in focus are the lasting relationships between locals and outsiders. These partnerships intertwine two perspectives on questions of otherness and assimilation in Africa today.
I’ve captured relationships based in Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria over five years, through photography and video. Those who kindly welcomed me into their lives were; Shaz & Juma, Simon & Reen, Cat & Alex, Sarah & Stix (in Uganda), Afera & Kate, Jess & Addisu, Billy & Rahil, Martha & Bayou (in Ethiopia), Kala & Mathayo, Wahida & Paul (in Tanzania), James & Tim (in Kenya) and Lisa & Sylvester (in Nigeria). Not all are featured on the website, only those I have developed on-going relationships with.
At the heart of the bond I feel with these ‘far away places’ is a thrill in becoming fractionally less foreign day by day. Every conversation, every glance brings me a little closer to knowing. But I will never know, and that’s the magic. Every moment is something gained; a muse, a catalyst, a question to never quite answer.
PS those toes on the home page are mine and Kojo's (2015)
For other projects please visit: brionycampbell.com