Connections #1 – Three boats on the Nile

This is the first of a micro-essay series inspired by the photos of #EverydayNile to draw connections among people, places, waters, and stories along the Nile river.

In his newsletter on African photography “Tender Photo”, Nigerian writer and art critic Emmanuel Iduma recently started a series of micro-essays called “Concordance” in which he brings together and comments sequences of photos from different artists. I found this an enchanting format, that resonates with the work that we have been doing with #EverydayNile, when we asked a collective of nine photojournalists to re-picture the river by telling stories of everyday practices and attachments to the Nile. Reflecting on their work in an episode of the podcast The House of Water, the photojournalists had a recurrent theme and word: connection. #EverydayNile photos and stories elicited various forms of connections: across Nile countries, between different water uses and users in agriculture, fishery or leisure, among professional groups like journalists, photographers and researchers. Inspired by Emmanuel Iduma’s Concordance, I would like to make those connections more visible and explicit through a series of micro-essays combining photos of different #EverydayNile stories.

Here’s the first Connection.

Miriam Watsemba, Sinking land (Uganda)

In the first photo, Miriam Watsemba portrays Agnes Naigaga, a nurse, standing on a boat on the shores of Lake Victoria, near the sources of the Nile of Jinja, in Uganda. The nurse is posing where her clinic used to be located. Now it has been submerged by the rise of the lake’s waters. The water looks calm and blue, reflecting a clear sky with some white clouds. To me, this atmosphere evokes an intriguing dissonance between the sense of calm transmitted by the water, and the stillness of the lady, suggesting a sort of contemplation but also resignation in front of a loss attributed to climate change.

Martha Tadesse, It is still home (Ethiopia)

With the second photo, Martha Tadesse takes us on the Baro river, a tributary of the Nile flowing from the Ethiopian region of Gambella into South Sudan. A fisherman is paddling in muddy waters. The brown waters reflect a troubled grey sky: we are in the aftermath of one of the recurrent floods hitting the region. In this image I feel the tension transmitted by the troubled water and sky, as well as by the movement of the fisherman. At the same time, the photos evokes also action, agency, and resilience: after the flood, it is still home, as the title of the story suggests.

Tony Wild, Powering the ‘Ghost Town’ of Rusinga Island (Kenya)

In the third photo, Tony Wild brings us back to Lake Victoria, this time on the Kenyan side, where fishermen are replacing kerosene lamps with more sustainable, effective, and safer solar lamps. The water and the sky in the photo are relatively dark, as fishermen set off to the lake in the twilight. The lamp lights up the photo and sheds light on a solution. The fisherman shines in his plastic armour reflecting the light of the lamp. I see pride and mastery in the way he holds the lamp and offers it to the camera.

These three photos share a similar framing, with the boat and the person standing at the centre, but tell very different stories. The striking difference is the colour of the water, that combined with the pose of the person elicits different emotions. Connecting these three photos made me reflecting on what type of stories should we tell – stories of loss and resignation, stories of agency and resilience, or stories of knowledge and solutions – and on the mesmeric power of the combination of water and light to evoke such stories.

If you have enjoyed this micro-essay, I invite you to explore the other #EverydayNile photos, find your Connections and send them at e.fantini@un-ihe.org to continue this series!



Cite this blog post
Emanuele Fantini (2023, June 30). Connections #1 – Three boats on the Nile. FLOWs. Retrieved June 21, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/os2y

Emanuele Fantini

Emanuele (@emanufanti) is senior lecturer and researcher at the Water Governance Department of IHE Delft. Committed to public engagement and crossover projects with artists and journalists, Emanuele coordinates the project “Open Water Diplomacy. Media, science and transboundary cooperation in the Nile basin”, he hosts the podcasts “The Sources of the Nile”, “Water Alternatives Podcast”, and “Si dice acqua”, and he is the editor of IHE Delft Water Governance Blog, FLOWs.

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1 Response

  1. 31/08/2023

    […] #EveryayNile photo-stories. If you have enjoyed this micro-essay, I invite you to check also the first, second, and third posts of this series, as well as the rest of #EverydayNile photos and send me […]

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