Tag Archives: streets

Eyes wide open

I could put up a lot of photos of Kampala and sometimes I do but I also enjoy the challenge of trying to capture what I see with words. On any drive there is a tableau of pictures spread for the taking if one simply keeps eyes wide open.  A drive in Kampala is therefore never dull and even on the most frustrating days there is, for an observer such as myself, poetry on the streets.

Having just dropped Trooper off at a pool party we drove through a neighbourhood inhabited by foreign diplomats and wealthy Ugandans. It is wealthy and yet no houses are visible, since they are hidden behind large metal gates. Before entry is permitted an armed guard, usually a privately employed police officer comes out barring a large AK47 to give us the once over. Driving away we notice other guards carrying guns, either outside of the large residences or walking to and fro to work. The huge police presence here is something we quickly take for granted but every now and again we remark on how many guns we see on a daily basis. Kampala is very safe, generally, but there lies beneath the surface a frisson of instability and it is the heavy police presence that keeps things from snapping and turning mad with violent chaos. This is a country that knows well the price of such violence and they have taken measures to keep themselves safe.

And we drive on, past bare chested men digging deep trenches into the red soil. Fibre optic cables are being laid, a sign of modernism creeping in, slowly but surely. Yet mere metres away people live without running water in a capital city. Access to clean water and health care are basic necessities that the majority hardly dream of. Cables are laid by hand, the soil dug with sweat and strength; bricks laid one by ones, roads fixed inch by inch by hand, this is a place where everything that can be done by hand is done so. Slowly, painstakingly, with bare arms and sweat.

We pass a woman, an enormous basket of bananas resting on her head. She walks with posture that would make a cat walk model jealous yet she is unaware of posture. She has been carrying on her head since she was knee high, this is not a new skill.

A baby lies naked in the mud while his mother fills a Jerry Can from a slow tap, grey sacks filled to splitting with blackest dusty charcoal lie next to him. Two children race another who rolls an abandoned bicycle tire with a stick, women gossip next to wooden planks that shelf pineapples and lettuce. A mother bathes her child with water in a bucket, another slaps clothes against a wooden frame and hangs them to dry and capture more dust.

Then we turn and home is in sight. More guards, more guns and another woman carrying bananas with poise and a determination to sell. We pass a Boda Boda carrying a family of four, the smallest child sits in front of the driver holding onto the handle bars, the wind whipping his short cropped hair. A group of men sit on the grass before a gate chewing sugar cane and talking in earnest.

In a simple 10 minute drive a world is open, but it is not my world. I am the observer, always watching, reading, imagining, wondering.  Eyes wide open I see but can never really know. I am forever the Other.


Filed under Kampala, Uganda

Kampala Corners

This is the way most people in Kampala buy their dinner each evening. They buy a fresh chicken, tuck it under their arm and ride a Boda Boda home.


A common sight here, cows just walking along the road. As I have said before, they are stupid, gormless creatures who can be kept in line by one boy and his stick. Many times have I sat in traffic waiting for the cows to pass.



These are the stands where people either charge their cell phones, buy air time or, if they have no cell, use these phone to make their call.


A mannequin displays the dress she wants to sell. Rather than lots of indoor shops, most stores are open onto the street and the colourful wares are displayed outside.


Filed under Kampala, Photography

Wednesday photos

This one is entitled Practice. I am not sure what they are practicing for but there are using sticks in place of guns and many have no shirts on. I think this might be a security drill, but I sort of hope not.

A usual sight here in Kampala, cows being walked. There is a man on a bike holding a stick who seems to keep them in line, but cows are such gormless creatures, they wouldn’t really think to go AWOL.

Colourful signs above a store.

This cow is in the centre of a roundabout next to the sculptural advert for a refreshing local beverage. He is tied to something, but again gormless.

A clothes shop in the market selling girl’s dresses.


Filed under Photography

Spotted on the streets of Kampala

Things recently spotted on a Boda Boda:

A family of four, all tucked neatly behind the driver. That makes five.

A woman breast-feeding while riding a Boda Boda, neatly zipping between a truck and another truck.

Two chickens, alive, tied to the handle bars.

A goat, very much alive, and not very happy, tied by the legs, upside down and hanging from the back of a Boda.

Recent viewings from the window of The Beast:

Very sharply dressed traffic policeman. They were dressed all in crisp, pressed white; held a whistle and a wooden palette with which they were directing traffic. I say, who needs traffic lights if these people dare to get themselves between one dusty truck and another? With a wave and the occasional beep on a whistle these fine men and women rule the roads.

Dead dogs and plenty of them. I have taken to wondering, each time I see a dog sleeping, if he is actually alive, or very much dead. It is not a question I enjoy posing as we speed over the pot holes.

Fish hanging from the fenders of cars. They are attached by string to the metal bar on the front. It seems this is the choice way to carry fish home and I imagine it reduces the fishy smell in the car but it certainly may add an aroma of smog to the taste of the fish. This is not an uncommon site yet one that leaves me bemused every time.

Many shops called Obama. There is an Obama Grocery, an Obama Hairdresser, and Obama Restaurant and an Obama Fruit Shop. Do you think he has any idea?

Downtown in the centre of Kampala where you would find the worst traffic jams there are men who walk between the cars selling a assortment of things that would defy the imagination. When was the last time that, sitting in your car, you suddenly realized you needed a wall map, or a pair of shoes, or a game of Scrabble or even a steering wheel cover? Mosquito zappers, board games, carpets and rain coats are offered beside cell phone car chargers, phone airtime, sneakers and peanuts. It is best to put up your window if you prefer not to shop since any one of these objects may be pushed into the car and dangled under your nose.



Filed under Might be funny, observations, Uganda

Watch out Boda men!

I have been driving the Beast! It is a pretty hairy experience driving in Kampala, more like an adrenaline filled video game than a mere drive to the store for milk. From both sides Bodas appear with pedestrians and bikes about to topple under the strain of carrying too much charcoal. Out of the blue a bike with sugar cane strapped horizontally across the back will weave between cars and appear in front of me, and just as I swerve to avoid him, I look to my left and see two small children crossing the road. People do not follow rules. There is no zebra crossing or plans to overtake only on the left. It is mayhem, madness and anarchy.

So while I may no longer be riding the Bodas I am still very much aware of their existance.  Watch out Boda man, the Beast is near.

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Filed under Uganda

Trying to be subtle

I am longing to take photos but it is a tricky one. A person cannot just approach people going about their daily lives, cooking, peeling, sewing, driving, laughing and chasing children and snap photos as if of animals behind a cage in the zoo. What is so exotic and unusual to my eyes is quite normal to the people here and the taking of photographs must be approached with some sensitivity. I am planning on venturing out alone, camera in hand and approaching people with a smile.


In the meantime I have found a fondness for photographing billboards. A lot can be revealed with a billboard and therefore I include a number of scenes of Kampala, billboards included.




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Filed under Photography, Uganda