Browsing, as I often do in time off, through the excellent DuckRabbit blog, I enjoyed reading post after post calling out photographers for misinformation about stories from a variety of African countries, as well as promoting excellent work from many places. It made me of an image I shot during Mao’s campaign which I love, but which I’ve been unable to use simply because of the visual language it instantly calls to mind. Look at the image below and try to guess what is happening. For those who want a similar level of context to what is often seen in Google Images, Amuru was a district very badly affected by the LRA war.


Could you guess? (Leave your guesses in the comments if you like, I’d be fascinated to hear them)

The building is an abandoned house (likely abandoned during the war, but now part of a bustling trading centre). That huge fire is actually small, a heap of dried grass being burned inside by children who are playing, and the figure in the doorway is a girl who was leaving because it was too warm inside. It’s a picture of children playing and doing exactly the sorts of things I did at their age, but somehow because of its location (a former warzone) and its placing (on a blog largely about Uganda) I’d held back from using it because it just says the wrong things.


About Muzungu

I’m a Uganda-based freelance photographer (and occasional writer) working for a broad range of clients including NGOs, newspapers and magazines and development agencies. My work has taken me across East Africa, South America and Europe, and previous clients include USAID, the World Bank and the East African. I also work on personal documentary projects in my spare time. If you’d like to hire me or to know more, please feel free to get in touch.
This entry was posted in Photography, Snaps, travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Misrepresentation

  1. duckrabbit says:

    ITs a beautiful photo. And important given the context. A caption gives all the info needed?

    • Muzungu says:

      It’s not the captioning which bothers me, it’s the fact that despite it being an image of peace and childhood it walks straight into the trap of conforming, at least visually, to so many stereotypes of the North. Thanks for the comment, extremely chuffed.

  2. petesmama says:

    It is an amazing photograph but I am glad you did not use it. No matter how beautiful it is, it was going to be taken the wrong way.

    I spend a lot of time on my father’s ranch in Masindi, where we are always cutting and burning piles of shrubs and grass to clear pasture for the cows. I immediately thought of that. But I can see how it would have been taken the wrong way.

    It is a lovely picture, though, almost like a painting. And I would happily frame and hang it on my wall.

    • Muzungu says:

      I’ve uploaded it as a pretty high-resolution image (I usually size them a little smaller but felt this one deserved it) so if you click on it then right-click on the image which opens up and choose ‘save image as’, you can download it and it should be printable up to a reasonable size.

      • petesmama says:

        Oh! I will, thank you! (Or at least I shall get my boyfriend to figure it out). The next time you are in Jinja you should sign it. Thank you.

  3. Antonio says:

    It is an extremely powerful picture and it certainly can lead to the wrong idea. I reckon it was a very significant gesture of yours not using it. Although it is a gift regarding beauty it doesn’t portray or reflect the reality you narrated behind it.
    However, it is a fantastic shot, congratulations.

    • Muzungu says:

      Thanks for the comment Antonio, please feel free to check out the Mao photoessay which I left it out of- it’s available on the main page of my blog. Thanks for the compliments too!

      • Antonio says:

        Nothing to thank, well deserved compliments! I will check it out. Take care and all the best.

  4. Stueeey says:

    Hey Will,

    I always feel a bit out of place commenting on these photo’s as I don’t do photography nor have I been to these places, but I thought I’d give you my two pence worth. First and fore most this is a really good picture.

    Looking at it from the point of view that I don’t know much about the country (sorry) I do feel that it does give some sort of negative appearance due to the person being obviously young and surrounded by fire. I have on the other hand led a sheltered life and never seen a building go up like that.

  5. degstar says:

    I thought the fire was on the other side of the building. It didn’t seem likely that the building itself was on fire, seeing as the second doorway is intact.
    It is a brilliant photo.

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