For many years I have been trying to come to terms with the changes that are transforming Africa into a place that is far removed from the familiar, comfortable Africa I knew as a child.
It is a strange feeling to see the continent that in many ways has defined who I am metamorphosing before my eyes.
I am still unsure whether those changes are for the better. We are told, or made to believe, that progress is a good thing, that mobile phones and the Internet will make us all happier and our lives better. I don’t agree. Skyscrapers, highways, parking lots and all the other accoutrements of consumerism leave me with a strong sense of nostalgia for what was and is no more.
Luckily, through my travels I am still able to catch glimpses of this past that I am so familiar with-a patina of colonial architecture, dictatorships, wars and most important of all, the animal world that we all come from. At the same time I cannot push away this feeling of sadness I have in seeing all these changes happening in front of my eyes.
My antidote has been to document the old Africa struggling to survive and the new one that is emerging.
I was not sure where to start and how could I capture all these emotions and souvenirs of my childhood. I did not have a beginning or an end into this journey that I wanted to undertake. How could I visually weave East Africa together and tell that story. What is the common thread that links Mozambique, Tanzania, Kenya and Somalia? I can’t give it a rational explanation, but mosquitoes and malaria is what sprang to mind.
The changes started a long time ago, arriving from distant places on boats. It came in different waves, carrying Portuguese explorers, the Omani, Sultans, British, Italians, Germans and the French. They left their imprint on the East African coast, which is where it all began. Traveling that coastline made me really aware of the different forces that were at play here in recent history, still affecting each one of the four countries in its own unique way.
Mozambique is still trying to emerge from a war that ended in 1992, Tanzania is still suffering from Julius Nyerere’s socialist policies, Somalia is still at war with itself after more than twenty years. And Kenya who was the poster child for political stability is now heading for a very uncertain future. it seems to me that the collective subconscious of each country has been moulded by the traumas of its colonial past and I wonder if they will ever be free of foreign influence.
"In many ways Mosquito coast is about the last vestiges standing of the 20th century where hundred years of brutal history shaped by foreign policies of the colonial era, followed by the cold war with the United States and the USSR competing each other via proxy African countries, and ultimately the failure of both in avoiding the monster they left in their wake creating the extreme fundamentalism we are seeing in Somalia, Kenya and many other countries in Africa.
A place in between waiting to have a new chapter of its history re-written."