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Thai-Australian travel photographer snaps the "softer side" of Africa

This Apr 4, the House of Lucie art gallery hosts a special talk with Thai-Australian travel photographer Diane Durongpisitkul, who spent the past 15 months traveling around Africa, from Ethiopia to Mozambique, predominantly in a local minivan. Here, she tells us about her journey.

By Bonnie Sananvatananont | Mar 22, 2017

  • Thai-Australian travel photographer snaps the "softer side" of Africa

How did this project begin?

Two years ago, I decided to travel through parts of the African continent as I'd grown up seeing many images of war, famine and poverty from there. With no concrete route or timeframe, I left for Ethiopia with the intention to take photographs that show the softer side of the African continent, one that is not so focused on the negatives.

What was the biggest difference that you witnessed between daily life in Africa and Thailand?

It’s hard to generalize about an entire continent. However, I did notice local music played a large role in the daily life there. You could always hear it vibrating from makeshift 24/7 bars and from people's villages. Breaking into song or dance was normal, but unlike many other cultures, it wasn’t something that was always associated with alcohol. Here in Thailand, I feel music has its time and place and, in general, we are more reserved in our attitude towards music and dance.

What was the most unexpected thing you witnessed during your time there?

When I was in a small town on the border of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, I followed a gogo [grandmother] to teach a village sex class. Her role was to teach young girls how to “do sex.” One of the first things I witnessed was the forcefully stretched labia minora of a 57 year old. The gogo had lifted her skirt, spread her legs and explained to the children that this is something all men in Zimbabwe want.

Tell us about your experience with witch doctors?

I visited a witch doctor in rural Uganda when suffering from a bellyache. The woman, who was in her mid-50s, put on a show of pulling shells and rocks out of the grass she had stuffed under my top, in order to cure me. She also mentioned that she could help ensure loved ones stay faithful, improve one's wealth and cure HIV positive patients.

Do you have any tips for budding travel photographers?

First and foremost, start taking pictures! You don't need to be half way across the world to be "traveling." If you're on a tight budget, there are many ways to fund yourself including work exchanges like Workaway, Helpex or WWOOF. Most of all, research is key. Knowing what's on, places of interest, political tensions, even the rough cost of things are very important. But I always say, plan without a plan: ideas are always good but leave yourself open for things to naturally unfold.

You've traveled the world extensively. Where would you recommend people to visit at least once in their life?

Old Dhaka in Bangladesh is a visual feast. In a few seconds you can witness everything from men with bears dyed bright orange to the smell of curry everywhere in the air. I also recommend the picturesque village of Hawraman-at Takht in Iran. It is an architecturally unique village where one person's roof forms the pathway of the person’s home above.

Check out the photos of Diane's trip below: 

Diane will be sharing more interesting stories from her trip at the event, "Tales From The Local Minivan - Journeys Through Africa" this Apr 4, 7-8:30pm, at House of Lucie (17/1, Ekkamai Soi 8). There also promises to be a presentation of her stunning photographs from the trip, as well as some available in print. For more of Diane's work, visit www.dianedurongpisitkul.com

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