I cannot say I was an innovator. Maybe I was just spontaneous, but anyway, the final result of a small experiment ended up being quite interesting. Very simple: inspired by a documentary I watched quite a while, called Born into Brothels, I simply gave my camera to a group of kids of the Namuwongo community. The results are worth an analysis and, why not, some considerations.

In my opinion, photography is the recording of a reality. The eye of the photographer decides what deserves to be registered and the elements that will be part of each photo. Banalities are set aside, whereas different motives and choices are behind each click. Instead of analyzing and letting the beauty of such exercise get lost, I am simply going to be the “curator” of this exhibit of children looks. And if one wants to comment, reflect or philosophy, the floor is open.

The important here is that this must have been the first time that those children have touched a digital camera. I did not give any explanation as to how the camera works. Even though, a few minutes later, they were already exploring the buttons, discovering how to work the zoom and check the pictures taken. They would pass the camera to each other being careful not to block the lens with their hands and afraid that I would get the camera back. Thus, during that half hour photographic experiment, they took more pictures than I did during a major part of my journey.

Just a reminder, our kids have their eyes well open to our plans for their future. If we neglect their needs, or if we fail to build a fairer society, they will be there, in a not-so-distant future, making the same criticisms that we do to the past generations. Maybe it is time to start changing the pictures that our children are taking of this world. Maybe this is the time to stop thinking about photos, videos and internet and start working to make the possible changes.

Below is the exhibit of some of these pictures:

The town was painted in three colors: red, yellow and black. On the printed shirts, flags, and on the faces of the young and the children on the streets, the colors of Uganda prepare the country for the greatest moment in the last 30 years: a chance for the national soccer team to advance and dispute the AfCon (African Cup of Nations).

Wearing a t-shirt for Brazil I arrived at the Nelson Mandela stadium at noon. The deafening sound of the vuvuzelas, mixed with whistles and shouts of support for the players– and, sometimes for some politician, such as President  Museveni – made the stadium rumble. The beautiful image of the bleachers, the excitement and the union of the country were printed on the faces of the fans, while the lawn was still empty: the game was only scheduled to start in five hours.

On the cement bench, squeezed among other fans, three Brazilians watched the same soccer fever as the soccer country. On the big screen, a message subtly pushed the players to the victory over the team from Kenya: “We have been waiting for this moment for over 30 years”. The talks of most of the fans expressed the certainty of a victory and the classification of the team. The party in the stadium could be compared to the finals of the world cup having the host country as the favorite team.

However, all that energy has a cost. Sitting in front of us was a common citizen. Surrounded by friends, he expresses in gestures and attitudes a major social problem still quite present in the region. From time to time, people move around the bleachers looking for the increasingly scarce empty spaces to watch the game. From times to times, one of those people was a female, and then the problem arose and spread out.

Daylight did not prevent his hands from exploring the breast and buttocks of the girls passing by. Neither did his friends, not even those who escorted those women say a word. If they do, they smile and greet the offender with a handshake and a smile. The women, who could not react due to social pressures, lowered their heads or expressed in their eyes a faint displeasure. Around us, nobody seems to bother about the violations of somebody’s body. Except for the three of us.

A major slap on the head of the guy was not enough. Maybe the booze, the excitement or, unfortunately, maybe ignorance regarding the severity of the offense, emptied the effects of our manifestations. Our friendship ended there. We no longer had anything to do regarding the attitudes of the guy and we no longer expected anything from him. And much less from the others around him, who did not do anything and, as a consequence, reasserted the attitude of inequality and disrespect.

The colors slowly began to lose their brightness and when the game finally began we had already lost a major part of our energy. Obviously, the “show” on the field also contributed to it. A few minutes and dozens of yawns later, it was clear why they waited for thirty years: the players barely knew what to do, and both the ball and the fans suffered.

By chance, I was fasting that day. It was the most important day in the Jewish calendar, and I decided to keep the tradition, even if out of context. I prepared a snack to break the fast, but I was stopped at the entrance to the bleachers because plastic bottles were not allowed inside the stadium. With a broken heart – and the certainty that I was going to feel ill – I left my bottle outside and got in. I saw hundreds of people in the forbidden area carrying bottles similar to mine. I asked them how they managed to go by with the bottle: “Ah, you just have to pay the police officer... 1000 shillings (the equivalent to some cents)”.

At the end of the game, with the expected 0X0 score, two things were quite clear: 1) the reason for the plastic bottle prohibition. They were flying everywhere, hitting the field, the policemen and whoever was in their way; 2) the intensity of an ever present corruption. If every bottle there was brought in as a result of bribing one or more police officers, millions of shillings and thousands of illegal deals were conducted, not quite behind somebody’s back.


This text was kindly translated by Tania F. Cannon. Many thanks!I learned my lesson: planning is important, but having the ears and the heart open makes much more difference in my day-to-day than following itineraries. I arrived in Uganda almost at down, after traveling almost 10 hours in a bus that looked more like a ship: wood ceiling with round lamps, seats torn from an old living room and screwed to the carpeted floor and individual plugs decorated in gold (ok, golden).

I got off in the middle of the road to follow the instructions sent by my Couchsurfing contact. Carrying my house on my back and my office on my belly, I get always a little antsy about walking around displaying my belongings. And, this time, I froze for seconds, without knowing exactly what to do. The situation was the following: I should follow straight to the street ahead of me, turn the first right and after three blocks turn left, pass an antenna and enter through a gate marked by diamond-shaped rocks. Easy, if not for the total darkness (not even a light source in a gigantic radius) and the total loneliness of the moment.

I started walking towards the darkness, but I went back to the road. Then, I resumed walking, feeling as if I just got into a very cold shower. After all, if the instructions were to follow this road, and my colleague knew that I would be arriving at this time, nothing bad could happen. After the first turn, the lights of a car lit the road, but just for a little while. The fellow approached me, asked me where I was heading to and warned me of the dangers of walking alone on that road. As usual, I made up some stories about how comfortable and safe I was feeling at the moment, but I ended up getting a ride to the house.

Contradicting my paulistana luggage and the opinion of my ride driver, the road showed to be perfectly safe in the following days. With the ongoing blackouts in the city (a subject for another text), walking in total darkness became a routine in Kampala. Sometimes it is quite difficult for me to disassociate from the reality I had in São Paulo, fearing for my belongings, for my life and for the life of people around me. But so far, East Africa has given me lessons of social interaction and a wealth of thoughts for my research on poverty.

I had handpicked my Couchsurfer. In his profile, he described himself as a specialist in the TIC sector for development and worked in several projects in Uganda trying to develop platforms based on mobile technology for social development. I was not really surprised with the couple that hosted me, but when I woke up the next day I was invited by a person related to them to visit Namuwongo, the key slum for my research in Uganda, for a documentary filming.

I did not think twice, I took a boda-boda (a motorcycle-taxi) to Namuwongo and met with the Film4Change team. I would be watching from distance  the entire filming of a documentary about the slum to be conducted by a team from Uganda , which was trained the year before by an international organization. To me, this was an opportunity to observe the environment and make initial contacts for the following weeks.

At the gate, we left behind an Italian organization of International cooperation and we walked to the entrance of what is considered as the slum. Two different worlds. After crossing the railroad that separates the “city“ from the slum, we climbed a small hill covered by trash until we reached the narrow entrance of houses on the dirt soil. No clusters in this area. It was possible to watch the endless movements of people from one side to the other, running small businesses or busy with handcrafts on the so-called pavement.

The documentary producers were busy trying to redo a drowning scene that took place weeks before our visit, but the movement and the composition of that scenery would, at any day, serve as subject for another hundreds of videos, studied and considerations. But obviously, there are not many people interested in that reality. The crowd of curious people was justified: muzungos, professional movie cameras, tripods, microphones and breaches of protocol with the elected local community leader.

Facing the creek that separates the community and a piece of land covered with small plantations, young people were representing a routine scene of the region: the drowning of a youngster or of a child, trapped by the unstable and swampy land, in the backyard of the houses in Namuwongo. The children that followed us seemed not to care about it – or were not aware of the risks– and walked along barefoot, stepping on feces, open sewerage and trash, a lot of trash.

Women show up from the middle of the forest carrying long stems of sugar cane on their heads. Slowly they cross the murky waters that reach their bellies, heading to the side where I stand, the safe side. Without losing their balance – and with no help whatsoever – they reach the not-so stable ground, and continue carrying their harvest heading to the slum. One of the pieces of sugar cane is handed to the children, who violently bite it and devour the unpeeled sugar cane.

The adventure comes to an end when the filmed scene finishes, and the community slowly returns to their daily routine. The same group of children that showed me the way in now takes me to the opposite direction, to the way “out”. The sun was scorching throughout the whole day spent in Namuwongo, but now, thunders bring the threat of strong rain. How would the life be in a slum – with no sanitation and located at the edge of a filthy creek - when it rains?