LAMU by land, part I

Lamu, Kenya  * November 2012 * Olympus OM-1, 35mm

The oldest town in Kenya lives on Lamu Island. It tastes of gritty, salty water. And smells of donkey dung and frangipani flowers. Calls to prayer breathe heavily above its modest buildings five times daily. Too early for my taste. In the town of Lamu town.

The streets are not streets here in Lamu town. They are passageways. Too narrow for anything wider than a donkey’s ass. So people ride donkeys, big and small, transporting bricks made of sea coral, between homes made of bricks made of sea coral. Cars are not welcome here; they do not exist in Lamu town.

Fisherman work in the town of Lamu town. Women in flowing fabrics pedal their feet beside the Indian Ocean. It’s no wonder Somali pirates frequent these parts. And kidnap a muzungu. Or two.

On a particular day last November, I inherited a shadow in Lamu town. A young girl who wore a headscarf – red in the front, flowers in the back. A girl named Diana. My shadow watched me from afar while I fiddled with my camera, explored the piers and boats. My shadow crept closer and closer until I gained her trust. She politely asked me to photograph her in front of the door to her school. And she trailed me around Lamu town until it grew dusk and time to pray. She escorted me to the place she found me. And, like a shadow, left with the sun.