A heap of maize is lying on the floor of the children’s home. Small hands are at work, separating grain from chaff. The yellow mountain, while undiminished in size, eventually mutates into laughter. Work becomes play.
My project focuses on orphans who are survivors of their own childhood. I worked closely with an NGO that runs an orphanage in Jua Kali, outside of Arusha in Northern Tanzania. Each child has a different story, but more often than not they have lost their parents to the HIV virus.
The children in my photographs have experienced extreme difficulty, yet the joy of life is a common thread throughout their lives. As a result of my relative wealth and privileged background, I came face to face with my own unpleasant feelings of guilt. By spending time with these children, I simultaneously experienced both a proximity and a distance from cultural borders. I became engrossed in the meeting of traditional and modern lives. My desire to learn more about the children is what lead me to photograph them.
While I did not took part in the harvesting of maize myself, I was asked to join the children eating their maize porridge. I never walked a long, dusty road to school in the morning, nor did I have to struggle for my education or to be recognized as an individual in my childhood. On my return home, there was still much in their lives I could not relate to.
While the children were willing to share their lives with me, there was not much I could give back to them. Yet there were times when they and I became we, filling my heart with joy and teaching me new things as well. Those are the moments I remember best.
Jackson 6
I like flowers
Husna 11
I like school
Frida 13
I like sheep
Clinton 5
I like brains
Faraja 14
I like computers
Brian 13
I like animals
Brenda 13
I like books
Maria 5
I like candy
Naomi 6
I like cat`s
Jacklin 11
I like pink flowers
Nemusa 12
I like singing
Nixon 11
I like trains
Selina 11
I like books
Maria 9
I like education
Rajabu 11
I like cameras