The name “Zanzibar” conjures up a certain image in Western public imagination – fragrant spices, Arab nights romance, and Indian Ocean exoticism. Once described as the Metropolis of “Eastern Africa”, because it was a distinctive place of economic power, religious knowledge and cultural pride, Zanzibar today is vulnerable.
Everyday living conditions are at stake in an archipelago where the majority still lives in great poverty without access to basic services like schools and hospitals, socio-economic inequalities dramatically increased, and the political power rules by force and arbitrariness.
Since 2010 I have been consistently documenting life in Zanzibar, hoping to advance both an understanding and an appreciation of this complex society. Exploring social and economic lifestyles alongside major political events and religious celebrations, I strove to capture the archipelago’s ongoing search to redefine itself through new ways of expressions, increased commitment to Islam and emerging political consciousness in a fast-changing environment. But in the background lays the story of an archipelago in the wake of its independence, forced to build itself within the country of Tanzania rather than as a fully-fledged nation, and increasingly overwhelmed by rapid development and foreign influence resulting from the growth of the tourism sector.
In this project, I am concerned with the social construction of Zanzibar as a result of its effort to adapt to global integration and with crafting a body of work that reflects this society’s own reality and vision both of and for itself.