I love Kampala at night. I adore the low lights, which almost give it a romantic ambiance. It may not be brightly lit like the really big and rich cities, but the low lights give it a unique characteristic. I know a time will come when ‘development’ will happen and wipe away the beauty, and I think I’ll cry. If I had the power, I’d try to preserve this feature of the city, to keep the street food vendors and vegetable sellers on the pavements, with their shielded tadoobas (paraffin candles) and their low wattage bulbs and make-shift lamp shades.
Every time I walk the streets in the night, I want to capture the beauty, maybe to preserve it for a time when such sights will be rare, but mostly because I enjoy freezing such moments in time. I’ve sadly never been able to capture what exactly I feel. Maybe I need a very good lens and a lot of patience, but then, I think you can never experience real life in a photo. Sound is essential in bringing the streets to life and you can’t put that in a photo; the chaos of traffic, taxi touts yelling for passengers, hawkers chanting and singing, an ambulance screaming as it races by, or maybe some big man’s sirens demanding a right of way. And then, there are the megaphones with recorded jingos playing over and over again, annoyingly. Sometimes, these jingos come to me even when I’m nowhere near a street (kyama ogule enganto za bakyala origino… or maybe… simu, mpya, doubline line, mtwalo satu ne kitundu wano ku motooka). You know how you can’t get those really terrible tunes out of your mind? That’s how sometimes these jingos nag me.
If I were to use video, I still wouldn’t capture the smell of dust mixed with that of petrol fumes and that of roasting meat, nor would I capture the warm air and the feel of bodies all around me. I guess we have to wait for 5-dimensional capture gadgets before we can truly preserve life in images.
I love walking through Nakawa market, with the bodaboda bikes parked besides tomatoes and mangoes, the dust, the fumes from cars stuck in endless jam, the throngs of people rushing home after work, and these women (and a few men) sitting quietly on the pavements, candlelights dancing in front of them, gently calling out to passers-by to buy cheap vegetables, their voices almost muted by the chaos of the streets.
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