Swahili Boat Builder Saarobo having water poured on him

Not All Good Things Come To An End

Sometimes you think it’s over.

Moments – gone. Emotions – gone. Memories – fading.

And you really think it’s over.

So you accept it and move on.

And then sometime later you find out, that it’s not over at all.


That’s what happened with my film in Kenya. My rusty soviet Zenit camera jammed and I ripped the film into two pieces by force. With the prying eye of one fine Italian fellow who opened my camera to have a peek what’s up with the roll, it got bombarded by millions of photons. Opened in direct sunlight on a boat on water that reflected most of it back at us, I saw the film outside its roll, inside Zenit, exposed. Uh-oh. All my shots, gone. Or so I thought.

A few weeks ago the film was developed and I was stoked to find out that at least one-third of my images taken during my stay on Musafir survived the light storm. A little scarred but nevertheless alive. Among them the one shot that kept visiting my thoughts while thinking I had taken the loss. The one shot that I was truly sad to lose. It is the featured image of this post. That moment, and taking that shot really stuck with me, I remember the image in my head as clearly as you see the picture, and to be honest with you I didn’t mind losing this picture in a sense because I was able to look at it in my thoughts anytime I wanted. I just wasn’t able to share it with anyone else as clearly.

The man in the featured moment is Saarobo. In Swahili this means a quarter-of-an-hour. 15 minutes. Because he is a boat builder that works damn fast. No one can compare to him when it comes to speed, nor quality of build. He does charge more than the other boat-builders, but still a measly sum compared to the Western standards – a $18/day. Not so much, knowing the number of skills Saarobo possesses that were passed to him through the generations of the dhow boat-building traditions in Lamu archipelago.

There is a rule that you can only combine 2-out-of-3 of these: quality, cost and speed. Well this man here has broken this law. Defied it completely. He’s somewhere in between natural and supernatural.

It’s sometimes tricky to follow Saarobo in a conversation, because he talks very fast too. A muslim that does not drink nor smoke, for he is hyperactive enough as he is and he knows it. Loves jiggy-jiggy jokes. A captain, and a fisherman, too. When someone would lose a tool off board a boat, or when the anchor rope needed unknotting, he would be the first top jump and dive into the depths with his eyes open and full of intent. In that sense, underwater, he reminded me of a hippo.

A few other recovered shots from the damaged film from Lamu island in Kenya:

boy pulls a load
A Lamu boy pulling a wagon through the streets. Since 2017, motorcycles are allowed on the Lamu island. This is changing the pace of movement.


Girl stands in the wind with her hijab flapping
A Lamu girl stands in the salty breeze of the street, her colorful hijab flailing in the warm wind.



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