I Thought of You as Gold but You are Such a Pain - Fotobook Dummy

Sehnsucht is a term that came into use during the German romantic period; it describes the longing to exist in a reality other than one’s own.
Places described as Sehnsuchtsorte are usually real – like Zanzibar. There are many reasons why Germans connect the name of an island on the eastern coast of Africa with such grand expectations. Most immediately, the tourism industry markets Zanzibar as a tropical paradise. While Zanzibar itself never fell under German administration, it was a site of overlapping imperial encounters, serving as a centre of the slave trade under Arabic rule before becoming a British protectorate in the nineteenth century. After the 1963 dissolution of its protectorate status, Zanzibar became part of the newly-formed postcolonial nation of Tanzania. For decades, Tanzania was one of the poorest countries in the world; while conditions have improved since the 1980s, it is still economically fragile. The German fantasy of Zanzibar as Sehnsuchtsort, then, exists in perpetual tension with the historical reality of Zanzibar as a product of unequal and often exploitative global developmental trends.
The photographer Mirjam Wählen was well aware of this tension when she traveled to Zanzibar. Her portraits acknowledge the educational, infrastructural, and health care disadvantages faced by locals, without fetishizing them. They approach Zanzibari culture with curiosity and respect, refusing the typical German Sehnsucht that has transformed Zanzibar into an imaginary utopia while robbing it of its history. Ironically, for some Africans, it is Europe that acts as a Sehnsuchtsort: promises of a better life in Europe drive dangerous migrations, leading some to death in the Mediterranean and others to an uncertain future in poorly-maintained camps or a state of legal limbo. When Europeans pursue their Sehnsucht, the most they risk is disillusionment; when Africans pursue theirs, they risk their lives and freedom. The photos of Mirjam Wählen strive to replace Sehnsucht with a respectful perspective, a distance that nevertheless cares – a glimpse into a more multipolar reality. (edited) by Hendrik Lakeberg

Interlude - J Combat Crew

«Surprise Me»

The Social Practice of Wearing a Kanga

The moment you step foot on the island of Zanzibar, you’ll notice a colorful garment that is popular all over the Indian Ocean coastline: the kanga. It contains a distinct message long before any designer even considered slogan T-shirts and inherits an often coded, but also playful or witty inscription. It has become an integral part of Zanzibari cultural practices, especially for women wearing a kanga who use it as a tool for indirect communication. Wearing a kanga is like wearing your heart on your sleeve.The kanga is an inexpensive garment. It consists of a wider border, the colorful pattern, and the writing (called jina). The jina often quotes a Swahili saying. An appealing message is the main reason why women buy a kanga,  either as an act of self-expression, or as a gift to send a message. It is the same reason why husbands buy kangas for their wives. Because the text is always coupled with a specific pattern, to wear a kanga inherits the meaning of the message being communicated.
When a wife wants to let her husband know to never even think about having a second wife, he might be presented a kanga that says: “Mke mwenza!! haa!! mezea!” “Mezea!” is Swahili slang for “Just swallow it!” and can be interpreted as “Forget it!” Another kanga hint how a woman wants to be treated is “Kantangaze” (“Surprise me”). A kanga also may transport disappointment: “Nilikudhani dhahabu kumbe adhabu,” “I thought of you as gold, but you are such a pain.” These sayings can have a significant social impact and change behaviors: there are kangas which discourage abusive marital behavior. Kangas are said to be especially effective in situations where we find a hierarchical relationship between the interactants. 
The kanga demonstrates the importance of the cultural practice of clothing in society, as it can play a role beyond mere fashion statements: “They touch a special place, not only the mind but also emotion (…) it has the power to make people think.

“Suprise me” - The Social Practice of Wearing a Kanga is part of the Fotobook Dummy “I Thought of You as Gold but You are Such a Pain”

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