Monday, April 7, 2008

On This Day Last Year...

I was buying a bus ticket from Arusha, Tanzania to Dar es Salaam, the country's major city. Although the capital is Dodoma (which I will get to in a week or so!), the first city in the country is hot and sweaty Dar es Salaam, on the coast of the Indian Ocean and a stone's throw from Zanzibar.
I had started photographing grafitti when I began the trip in Japan. I found amazingly beautiful and provoking street murals and grafitti from Russia to Slovenia, from Greece to Cyprus and everywhere in between. But when I reached Africa (I started my travels on the continent in Egypt), I realized that I had to change my definition of grafitti. Most signs, whether for businesses or for advertising, are painted, like this one. There is little grafitti, as we are accustomed to it, on the streets in Africa, until you get to South Africa and Namibia. The reasons are most certainly economic. I became fascinated by these hand painted signs and I will try to include photos of them as the days go by.
I remember asking one of the Russian hippies I had stayed with in St. Petersburg why there was only one kind of toilet paper for sale in the market. "How many do you need?" he asked me.
That was East Africa for me. One kind of toilet paper, or soap, or shampoo or coffee - if you could find these items at all. And why do you need toilet paper when few of the people in Africa use toilet paper at all? At most hotels where I stayed, a reused bottle of water was by the squat toilet in lieu of TP. Oh, the tough got going.