Mutesi’s World
November 21, 2010

‘Well I came upon a child of God, she was walking along the road, I asked her where she was going and this she told me………..’

Her name was Mutesi and she scribed it in the red earth with a stick to make sure I had got it. Mutesi was about nine years old, wore an easy smile and spoke a little English. She was carrying a small yellow plastic water container along the ‘road’ to Mushikiri.

Having seen my camera Mutesi was quick to ask for a ‘photori’. She struck a bashful pose and was clearly pleased with the end result as she stared at the display on the back of my camera.

Thereafter she walked beside me as we passed the simple clay built homes, many of them freshly rein this way for about an hour gradually attracting a number of adults, intrigued to see what all the fuss was about as their children giggled and pointed at their digital images.

Normally reticent people were suddenly lining up to have their photographs taken; a group of old men sitting with their sticks and chewing the fat in the shade of a tree, a young mother proudly showing off her one month old baby, a family group selling sweet potatoes by the roadside, a woman up to her arm pits in a bucket of mud for rendering the house, and women bearing huge loads on their heads.

The Rwandan people aren’t naturally ‘smiley’ but a bright and breezy, ‘Mwaramutse, amakuru?’ is usually rewarded with the response , ‘Ni meza!’ accompanied by a thawing of the features.

Similarly even those who consent to having their photograph taken are very wary and either stare blankly into the lens or avert their eyes. It was therefore really surprising and rewarding that so many people responded so positively to having a camera lens intrude into their lives and with a bit of encouragement most of them even smiled.

One lady, clutching a lovely pair of mangoes, posed for me in a resolutely dead-pan way but when I said, ‘Show me your teeth!’ she let out a huge guffaw, her head rocked back, face illuminated and mouth opened to display the lovely gap toothed smile that I was after.

My chance meeting with Mutesi had opened the door on to her world and provided a rare opportunity to capture her people going about their daily business.

‘We are star-dust, we are golden and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden………’

(Woodstock lyrics courtesy of Joni Mitchell)

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