© 2017 Sam Wood

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Okay Coca Cola

Photographs from Zimbabwe, August 2016. 

I was in a market that sold trinkets to tourists and fake branded clothing. A shopkeeper remarked to me “What are you taking photos for?” He paused “Are you going to show the world how horrible Zimbabwe looks?”

Upon leaving for there I only had one goal; not to photograph Zimbabwe in the classical photojournalistic way. Zimbabwe, I should add, has banned the BBC from filming there. It is also in a period of political upheaval. Robert Mugabe, its aging ex-freedom fighter turned despotic leader (his official portrait is a required to be displayed in any registered business). He has recently been deserted by many of the veterans of the ‘struggle’; a major source of his power. Protests had already begun breaking out just prior to my arrival and in recent days since my departure even intensified. Zimbabwe’s economy is stalling. I Mention these things not because they are ‘in’ my photographs, as such, but more because they are perceptible in the edges of the frames.

“I don’t intend to”, I responded to the shopkeeper. He asked if i’d like to buy anything, “okay, Coca Cola.” I said. And then I realised that these are the two words in the The Beach by Alex Garland; listed as the most recognisable anywhere in the world. I wanted to photograph Zimbabwe as how it is - as a site of convergence of cultures and of class; of local and globalised. We left the market and drove back to my Aunt and Uncle's, passing gated houses, with razor wire and large walls. The rich and the poor. A land of opposites.

Zimbabwe is an ex-British colony. Knowing this and my position of privilege, I wanted to make my gaze and position evident - to reveal myself as an outsider trying to understand.