I don’t think I’m in Canuckistan anymore

Not smiling. Just wary. At first.
Not smiling. Just wary. At first.

Yesterday I blogged about my visit to Zama Zama, an informal settlement close to Pretoria. One thing that struck me as I walked around, my huge camera slung over my shoulder, was just how different this world was to the one I left a month ago.

There are the obvious things of course: the poverty, dirt roads, shacks for homes … and the smiling faces. If you read the post yesterday, I’m sure that was one thing that struck you too. (Not that I’m saying people in Canuckistan never smiled, mind you!)

Here, as I stopped to chat to people on the road or outside their shacks I was only met with openness and friendliness.

In Canuckistan I got used to being met with distrust whenever I shot in public places. In fact, not only did someone ask suspiciously on the town’s community Facebook page who I was, and why I was taking photos around town, but another woman, who had given me permission to shoot and blog pics of her kids at a lake, called the police on me when she changed her mind. Awkward!

In this dusty squatter camp, I asked a few people if I could take their photos and was met, almost uniformly, with the same answer: “We don’t have money.”

I replied as I always do when shooting in Africa and Madagascar: “I’m really sorry, I’d love to but can’t pay you for the photos.”

“No, WE don’t have money to pay YOU,” they answered in all seriousness.

Of course, once I’d explained that I definitely didn’t want anything from them, they were delighted to pose, only too honoured to be my special models.

I love it. This is Africa. Nothing is as it seems.

I think I’ll print off a few of the pics and take them hard copies next time I go out to work with the kids. They can stick them on their mantlepieces. Well, if they had mantlepieces!



  1. I never knew of a (Thursday) morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy – Ernst Hemingway

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