1. Passing by the Circle, Mbalawala, near Dodoma, Tanzania, 2017
Scan of a Platinum-palladium print on Reich CT48 Translucent paper, from an 8×10 inch negative
Printed 2018

Carolina Francis Kalungwama, behind her aunt, Julia Kalungwama. Both were cut as children. Julia is a former ngariba (cutter), and was assisted by Carolina.

This is the first image of ‘From Where Loss Comes‘, a photographic series about female genital cutting and sacrifice. The series is published here with permission from all the people portrayed in it.

Another post about the making of this photograph

Certainty. We lean into it and against it. Glancing and gazing at each other, our eyes seek other eyes, as signals of agreement and confirmation, as unspoken bonds. We look for certainty. In you, I see me. And so, life passes from person to person. Traditions.

Look. This is how I have done things, the way my mother did. Just as her mothers knew, I know that all of this remains in the ancient circle. Look at my eyes, look into our past, and then, carry it heavy into the present. The present is clear, but not beyond that. What has not happened is not clear.

Fear. Your unknown, your blurred life, full of uncertain possible, can be exchanged, somewhat, by what… by a sacrifice. Take away the most unknown, the most private, the most your own. And join us who have done the same.

Look. Focus.

Julia’s face is sharp, glancing, a mask. Not a mask to cover and hide, or supplant with something that is other than Julia. It is a mask that is a stage for exchange. Behind the mask, lifetimes of feeling and intuition. Behind the mask a being that exists beyond the body, that moves from plants to people, from cutting to healing, that hears more than what is said, that trusts in more than what is known.

And I, in front of the mask, am imagining, then realizing, then bringing into my existence an echo of all that I see. I begin to feel, to repair, to know the scars, to hear more than what is said. And in this blurring, I become her niece. We become the shadows, we stretch apart in quadrants, upper left dark, lower left light, upper right light, lower right dark, then snap together at the edges. Back and forth.

Oscillating. Truth does not lie in the extremes of dark and light, but in their transitions. Transitions are fluid, uncertain. And uncertainty induces fear.