I’ve always been inclined to a rose-tinted perspective. So, with plenty of stories of human afflictions, saturating the media, I contemplated alternative narratives to all the impending doom. I had an urge to escape the perils of routine, explore what it means to be alive, and capture simple sentiments with my camera. There’s no better place to start this therapeutic artistic endeavour, I thought, than upon the summit of the sacred Sarandib Mountain, to see in the dawn of a new year.
Thanks to the high altitude and inept preparations, ensuing fatigue and nausea were inevitable. Yet I still managed to reach the peak before dawn, only for an overcast sunrise. As if that wasn’t enough of an anti-climax, it was forbidden to see the sacred footprint of the prophet for which the summit takes its name. With aching feet from yet another nonsensical jaunt up the sacrosanct highlands, rising to the heavens like a mountain of smoke, I searched for some positive enlightenment.
Sarandib – Serendipity – coined by the Arabs when they landed by chance on the “Island of Jewels”, represents the art of unexpected discoveries that bring benefit or happiness. The enchanting notion of ‘serendipity’ was my new found inspiration for photography and my constant quest for silver linings.
In those agonizing hours as we descended through lush plateaus, I thought of all the places where I might perceive a harmony of colour against tropical light, places where I was free to confront other kinds of realities. I could follow in the footsteps of the long tradition of Arab travellers, British explorers, and the early pioneering masters of photography; I pondered how ‘serendipity’ could add a happy and spontaneous dimension to my photography and wanderlust.
These photographs, sharing fleeting moments, are serendipitous encounters. I could only fathom this way of seeing on the apex of the Sarandib with its rugged well-watered evergreen trees.
The affinity I have with the subjects of my photos – the places and the people – are often in spite of not speaking the same language. Photography has allowed me to share a universal language of feelings; it’s opened a creative window to share with others how I choose to see the world: with a sense of inquisitive innocence and laughter.
The benevolence of the people featured to allow strangers such as myself into their personal space is humbling.
Photography and serendipity have given me what vagabonding gave to Ibn Battuta:
“a hundred roads to adventure and gives your heart wings”.
Pearl of the Indian Ocean
With the exception of the invitation of the exhibition, all the photos in this exhibition were taken in the ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ Maputo, Mozambique, in the spring of 2019, during a full immersion Photo workshop with my photography maestro, Nicolas Pascarel. For me Maputo is a serendipitous place, with an intriguing history, often a smiling people, still unaccustomed to mass tourism. We were as exotic to them as they were to us. It’s a place where the architecture is eclectic from Late Modernism, art deco, to simple adobe thatches. The genius architect Pancho Guedes once said: “I claim for architects the rights and liberties that painters and poets have held for so long”.