A chat with a young renowned Tanzanian photographer with a portfolio stretching from inner parts of Tanzania, cities of Africa and those of Europe.
About two years ago a young man walks into an informal meeting I was having and shouts “did you see the pictures I took?” and I turned to look at him. It was the first time Imani and I met at Buni in Dar es salaam. Full of energy, enthusiasm and childish-like infectious laughter and I knew then that I wanted to be involved with his work.
At 23 years old, a few months right after a tragic accident that left his right arm with an open fracture and a change of career within the same line of work, Imani met Hon. January Makamba (then a deputy minister for Communication, Science & Technology in Tanzania) — and it was a cradle of miraculous works of art. Living in a vibrant and a beautiful city of Dar es salaam, now Imani works as a freelance photographer focused on environment, photo journalism, political and documentary photography and here’s a walk into his mind soon after his recent work-trip in Europe.
Q: If a stranger walks right to you and wanted to know all about you in 45 seconds, how would you describe yourself?
Imani: He takes a thoughtful pause “a photographer — but I’ve been asking myself the same question for a while ‘who am I?’. Career-wise I’m a photographer that wants to capture everlasting memories, to hopefully win awards, have my works live on and impact people”.
Q: and as a person?
Imani: “I —, (he hesitates) I like to believe I am humble but I’d leave that for people to tell also I like to learn and I allow criticism. As most young Tanzanians that came from ‘normal’ life I’m keen to push boundaries and limits and that is reflected in most of the things that I do”.
Q: Let me paraphrase these questions — what do you want people to see when they see you and what to talk about when they talk about you?
Imani: “Mh well I care about what people see, talk or think about me especially if it grows me as a person and my career and if I were to control that — which I can’t — I’d say I want them to see me as a professional photographer that has dreams beyond imaginations and I’m talking about being invited for public lectures and to be recognized for my work. I’d love for people to say I have made a positive impact in their lives through photography”.
Q: Imani, tell me what gears do you use for your work in photography?
Imani: “The most important gear I use is my brain and the rest are just tools to bring life to my imaginations”
Q: I know you for a person who has a knack of pushing boundaries to achieve great things and when we spoke in October of 2017 after your trip to Florence in July and before my trip to Stockholm you vowed to go back to Europe to capture different cities which you did this January and I admire that because I know it doesn’t come so easily and what I’m interested in is when you go in one of your travels for work what do you take with you? and why?
Imani: “I don’t believe in limits — and once I decide to do something I intentionally marry my conversations to my vision and hope to stimulate ideas and discussions that’d help me improve and achieve my goals. It is why I shared my plans with you and people close to me that want to see me succeed. When I travel I normally research about the place and the people I will meet. I feed my mind with information about the place I am about to visit especially their cultural build up. I also pack my camera, my phone, laptop, credit card and money.
Q: You remember clothes right?
Imani: He laughs “obviously..”
Q: I’m curious about your growth, especially mentally, do you read books or how do you expand your knowledge?
Imani: “I read books. I use Google a lot to search for answers to my questions and YouTube to watch tutorials. But also an alternative source of knowledge for me is ‘people’ and I have identified people that are more advanced, experienced and knowledgable than I am and I visit and talk to them”.
Q: Who are those you’re talking about?
Imani: “Well…just to mention a few — the very first person is my father, my brother, Hon. January Makamba, Mussa Nnauye, Joseph Mabima, of course you, Eric Kabendera, Peter Nelson & Mkuki” he laughs and adds “Jumanne, Francisca and others”.
Q: Interesting — and I believe we need mentors to grow and I appreciate the fact that I am in that list, tell me are there any photographers that have influenced you and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?
Imani: “In Tanzania I am influenced by Laurent Kimbatu who is an amazing photographer and he used to work at Novel Idea bookshop at Slipway. He used to borrow me his camera and was always there whenever I needed to learn anything. I still hang out with him, we cycle together and take pictures now and then”
Q: Among your works, which one is your favorite? Why?
Imani: Mh I have a lot of my pictures that I like and the one that I love most was my first picture to be shared on all media from papers, social media and other places. This one (he points on his computer screen).
Q: Interesting picture really and you recently visited Europe and I know so many people are excited to see your work there. How do I say this? I appreciate an opportunity to use this platform as the first to showcase your works in Europe.
Imani: Karibu…and to give you an insight I visited Amsterdam, Berlin, Prague, Paris and just to mention a few. Enjoy.
Q: Why Berlin wall?
Imani: I have always, in my life, wanted to touch that wall. I mean it is intriguing if you think about it — the heights humans are willing to climb to tear down separation or discrimination gives me hope in humanity. There is a lot for us, altogether, to still learn from each other and the most important one is love.
Q: Did you enjoy Paris?
Imani: It was exactly the way you described it to me
Imani: (Laughs) No comment.
Once again Imani I am so glad you could drop by for a chat and I know your work is already inspiring generations to do great things in what they aspire to become especially here in Tanzania and in Africa.