‘Shadowed’- A photographic story about Rape

Rape is a problem consuming our societies worldwide.I worked with four Ugandan contemporary dancers (Robert Ssempijja, Zawedde Sarah, Daphne Tumwebaze and Ssenyonga Oscar) to create images that tell stories about rape using dance as a medium of communication. In this series of pictures, one of the dancers – Daphne tells a story about a young woman who was raped, The physical and emotional pain involved, the trauma and how with the support and comfort from friends and family she manages to rebuild her life and choose to help and inspire other women who have gone through tough times. This is a story of hope and strength.








Note: This series is one of the four stories told by the dancers I photographed.


Justice for Lake Victoria

Justice for Lake Victoria

“God gave us a beautiful mass of water named Lake Victoria. But the future of this resource depends on what we do now.” Hon. Daniel Musinga of the Kenyan Court of appeal in Kisumu. Lake Victoria is Africa’s largest freshwater lake and the world’s second to North America’s Caspian. An outstanding socio-economic feature in the three countries shared by it, the lake unites countries Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Lake Victoria has traditional names that vary with regions, it is called ‘Nam Lolwe’ in Kenya, meaning an endless water body. In Uganda, the lake is called ‘Nalubaale’ word for traditional gods while in Tanzania, its known as ‘Nyanza’ meaning lake.These traditional names represent a diverse cultural rich that the lake holds. It also serves a great deal of economic support to the countries and more empowerment to the population living on and near its shores.

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Lake Victoria – Jinja, Uganda

Despite offering fish, transport, tourism, industrial raw materials, huge volumes of water among so many other roles – the Lake is suffering a lot of injustice from its own people.

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A man bathes in the lake. Jinja, Uganda


Dave Ojay, a Kenyan native, born in the lake region couldn’t watch the lake being abused and misused to the maximum without doing a thing. He had an idea that would help instigate justice and fair treatment for the lovely water body he grew up adoring. Together with a number of other artists in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, Naam Festival came to surface. The aim of the festival and its activities is to get action towards saving the lake. With its pilot in 2013, the festival has achieved and grown its influence over the time.

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Dave Ojay the Naam Festival Founder talking to the Chief Judge of Kenya, Dr. Willy Mutunga during the exhibition opening event.

Naam festival held a photography exhibition and a multi-sectoral Environmental Forum that brought together Juridical delegates from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya, Hon. Dr. Willy Mutunga graced the festival with Hon. Justice YorokamuBamwine from Uganda’s High Court while Tanzania’s Chief Judge Mohammed Othman was interviewed. H.E Hon. Jack Ranguma, Governor Kisumu County applauded Naam Festival for its aims towards conservation of the Lake.

Dave, Naam Festival Director with Hon. Jack Ranguma, Governor Kisumu County.

In his speech at the Exhibition opening, the Governor cites his government’s projects and  activities towards the conservation of Lake Victoria and talks about their fight against water hyacinth on the lake.

Hon. Jack Ranguma gives a speech during the exhibition opening at Kiboko bay.

Naam festival artistically involved three photographers in documenting life and issues around Lake Victoria. The photos gathered constituted a public Exhibition at the Little Art Gallery in Kisumu from 18th March to 30th April 2016. The contributing photographers were;AmungaEchushi from Kenya, Esther Mbabazi (Uganda) and Salome Greggory (Tanzania). The exhibition was complimented as a platform that had great photography that opened people’s eyes to understand what Naam is about.

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Photography Exhibition

On the Juridical side of the festival, ‘all goes back to what the law says’ was more of a forum on ‘what the law should enforce…’ The festival engagement of the judiciary in issues of the community that are hurting East Africa as a whole was as described by Hon. Yorokamu Bamwine, a ‘quite unique one as Judges and the Judiciary are rarely involved in such platforms.’ He called it a “Judicial Festival” and a “trend in the right direction”. The Justice also cited the National Environmental Management Authority – NEMA as a fault in areas where it gives people permission for people to construct and build in areas of the lake especially wetlands.

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Hon. Yorokamu Bamwine, Principal Judge, Uganda High Court.

Godfrey Ochieng, a local fisherman believes that to preserve the lake, laws must be followed by everyone thereby a need for public education about conservational issues. When asked about the low fish levels, he blames the too much pollution going on that affects fish breeding. Jane Nundu, a fishmonger from Kisumu says poor waste disposal in the lake affects the quality and size of fish being caught from the lake and in turn affects the business sales as clients don’t buy poor looking fish.

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Fishing on the Lake

When looking at the disputes over an island Migingo that is being quarreled for between Uganda and Kenya, Kenya’s Chief Justice Dr. Willy Mutunga says, If there’s going to be unity in East African Countries over the lake, all countries need to look at what divides East Africa in general And What our interests are – in order for us to protect them interests.

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Dr. Willy Mutunga, Chief Justice of the Republic of Kenya giving a speech at the Naam Festival Exhibition Opening.

For economic independence, some women have to trade sex for fish. The fish levels are low and in order for one to get better quality fish at fair prices, women fish mongers exchange sex for a better shot at good sales and that results into the high spread levels of HIV on landing sites and islands on Lake Victoria. Jane Onyango, a gender expert from FIDA cites the need for economic diversification in areas around the lake in order to help the women overcome the practice.

As every challenge presents an opportunity with it, Apollo Omondi realized one. Over the years the lake has been having a problem of water hyacinth, but for an innovator like Apollo, raw materials are everywhere on this lake. He uses the water hyacinth to craft baskets, chairs, office furniture, trays among other beautiful artworks. This has boasted his economic stand in life and at the same time helps eradicate the hyacinth from the lake. Now that hyacinth is being fought, what will be the way forward for Omondi?. Well, innovators create solutions!

A basket made by Omondi from water hyacinth

Justice for Lake Victoria is an achievable cause, there is a lot everyone can do in their reach to conserve the environment. If nature is at ease, life is okay, but if nature fights back, woes on people.

Passion Driven Ambition

My dad used to take photos on an old Fuji film camera as a hobby. I remember when I was a young girl, aged about 5, I could play around with the unprocessed films which my dad never printed. I could look through and see figures of people in negative form and never stopped guessing which faces they were. I didn’t know that at some point in the near future, it would be me taking photos.

Growing up the only girl in a family of seven, I never lived a so girly life, I wanted to write, I wanted to tell stories, I wanted to find a way of self expression that mattered to me and would connect me with the world. My mum is one of the most outstanding people in my life, even when other people felt photography wasn’t a career for a girl, she believed in my passion and she always keeps me moving with her emotional support. After my high school, I realized that it was time for me to start working towards my passion and develop a career that connects with the world. Ever-since I had my first lesson on basics of photography by a good friend of mine, Oscar Kibuuka in November 2013, I have never stopped learning and growing.

Photography is that one part that makes my life complete with My Faith, Family, friends and Music. I always feel happy and contented documenting,capturing moments and sharing them with the world. My first solo exhibition was in July 2015 at a coffee shop in Mbale, Eastern Uganda. The support I received from the public was overwhelming and showed me that the world needs to see my work, From the lounge of a coffee shop to the National Theater, I had my second exhibition at Bayimba International Festival of the Arts in Kampala in September 2015, This was an inspirational moment for me, a motivation to keep sharing stories. I decided to take time and search for opportunities, apply for exhibitions and platforms to show my work. This opened my mind to the many opportunities out there which just needed us artists to dig deeper and take risks, I have taken time to apply to platforms with the feeling of ‘my faith will see my work through’. By doing this, I have been able to participate in joint exhibitions in Kampala and one in Kenya.

I know, such opportunities don’t come easily, one has to scratch down the covers, one has to go out of his/her comfort zones to work harder in the attempts of growth. I choose to share this story of success on a personal basis, for the struggling artists that keep trying and don’t limit themselves, for the female artists that never set limits on their goals, for the love of my motherland which needs to be shown to the world in its reality. For the spread of humanity. For the celebration of Africa.

Day in the life of a Village Pupil

10Year – Old Kiiza wakes up at 6am and starts preparing for school. He then has breakfast as quickly as possible. After the preparations in the morning, together with his sister, they leave home for school at around 6:50am. They walk two miles from home to school every day and run through a very narrow footpath with thick grass high above their heights.

Kiiza and his sister, Kezia run to school.

Kiiza goes to a government aided school in Luweero district. When one gets to the school premises, the eyes are welcomed by two small buildings on a vast piece of land. Despite being the only accessible school in a very big neighborhood, in one dusty ground classroom, two different classes take the corners of the room. The teachers have to teach in low voice tones so as not to interfere with the class in the opposite corner. Some pupils sit on the ground because there isn’t enough furniture.

 Primary two class studies under a mango tree.

During break time, children go searching for ripe mangoes to feed the empty stomachs. Each child takes three kilograms of maize corn for every school term for flour that they use for making porridge to feed the pupils. In rural areas, the fate of the children depends on their parents and teachers. If the parents don’t collect maize corn, no meals would be prepared at school. If the children don’t dig around the school, they would study in a bush. A school that teaches eight classes has only six classrooms which make some classes to be taught under mango trees and others to share a classroom.

One of the pupils having a mango for break time.

At around 4pm, Kiza returns home to a cool hut with a loving family, He is served an evening meal – he then heads for some domestic work. Together with his sister, they wash dishes, take livestock to the field, and fetch water. So after fetching water, they bathe at the dam – where they collect water.

Every day chores end with fetching water – Kiiza and Kezia at their home in Luweero.

They get home, have dinner and sleep – till tomorrow!”

Today, I celebrate you!

Winnie, what an inspiration you are! I remember meeting you was one of the great things that happened to me in 2014. The way we met was so inspiring, I remember us sitted on that table as we went through the ‘Unleash Dreams’ session. I got to know of your story, but that is not all that I got to know about you. I got to learn of your inner strength, your courage, determination and that undying love to educate and empower generations.

You are serious and playful at the same time,Esther Mbabazi-044213

You know the definition of ‘you’, you are free spirited, loving and caring. I know, to some, this might sound like too much for a person, but, yes, I’m celebrating Winnie, and so I’ll speak from heart. You always smile and share love with people, even in trying times, you always afford an honest smile.

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All smiles, Winne

You, Winnie are a Queen. The work you do with The Innocent League Uganda is amazing and impactful. I’m sure the youths that you reach out to learn and realize alot more about themselves in a very friendly way. The passion that you incur in mobilising friends to work towards a common goal is exceptional – The world should know about you and The Innocent League.

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Soul warrior – Winnie

I know that as you keep on working hard and pushing forward to your goals and dreams, everything will work out very well.

I am so glad I met you, more glad that I keep finding inspiration in you. I celebrate you, Winnie.


Faces of Tomorrow as seen Today

Just after my exhibition at the recently concluded Bayimba Festival of the Arts, i get an email to work with Trust Future Uganda. This was in no way just a gig, it is one of those moments where i felt a huge love for humanity in one compound, in the classrooms and everyone at the school made it a great experience for me. I love making photos of children, these cute little souls are some of those amazing things that could ever happen to the world. Thanks Flourine for inviting me.Esther Mbabazi-02927 Esther Mbabazi-029710 Esther Mbabazi-032121 Esther Mbabazi-043246 Esther Mbabazi-045754 Esther Mbabazi-047364 Esther Mbabazi-050879 Esther Mbabazi-053487 Esther Mbabazi-056492 Esther Mbabazi-0901204

Victoria My Pride

At around 11am, we get to Masese landing site –  one of the biggest landing sites on Lake Victoria. Located in Jinja district, the landing sites accommodates a very big population during the day. People from the nearby villages and islands come to the site for work, business and transport. It’s busiest time is around 8am-4pm , after that, the boatmen say its dangerous to sail on the late evenings.

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Lake Victoria as taken from Masese landing site , Photo: Esther Mbabazi

We then get a small board to one of the smallest and yet nearest islands called Rwebitooke. It accommodates and offers land for economic activities as farming, boat making, transport among others. On this island is where we found a boy named Isa working his fishing net. He says fishing is part of his life, he does it every evening when back from school.

Rwebitooke island - Esther Mbabazi - 2015

Esther Mbabazi - 2015

Fishing is the widely practiced economic activity on Lake Victoria with different types of fish like silver fish, Nile perch. Sometimes fishermen do fish on the shallow waters where they get immature fish in larger quantities in order to maximize sales.

This was all done while on an assignment for Naam Festival a call for Justice for Lake Victoria in the three East African countries of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania.

fishing - Esther mbabazi - 2015

Street friend in Mbale

I arrive in Mbale in the afternoon, meet some friends staying in the area.  As we sit and chat, a street kid comes around and he seems to chat really well and personally with my friend. Hes introduces himself as Magidu – I too get engaged in the conversation. At this time of the evening the kid’s mind is corrupted and disorganized by the drugs he’s been taking. It needed a patient and free person to listen to his conversation. He seems really happy to see my friend as we were sited somewhere along the kid’s streets. “You’re in our areas,man!” he said to my friend. At this point i find the conversation and the kid’s sense of humor irresistible. After a few minutes of talking, the kid left.

The next morning, i see Magidu again together with his friends. He is putting on a sweater with words “criminal and violence destroyers”. One of his friends is holding a bottle of either aviation fuel or petrol. They sniff these hardcore gases all the time. The moment he sees me, he calls out – “Aunt, you were in our streets yesterday!” A splash of a strange happy feeling filled me up. According to the situation that he was in the night we met him, i didn’t expect him to remember anything!. I asked him if i should offer him water or a soda, he asks for a Sprite while shying with a smile. I was so excited that our conversation resumed again. One would wonder what we talked about. Well, we talked about Mbale town, the buildings and the people!.

Street kids - Esther Mbabazi - 2015

Street kids - Esther Mbabazi - 2015

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Magidu – the boy in the middle chilling with his friends in Mbale town.

Too bad i didn’t get to stay for more time in Mbale. But i hope he stays well. Hope we can talk something more positive next time we meet.