Rush of Blood to the Head

The cool calmness of the previous evening had been suddenly interrupted by the sounds of a bullfight and the cracking of branches as an enraged bull broke through the barrier of the kraal. The thundering hooves had come right past my tent followed by the sounds of human strides as two Mursi tribesmen followed in pursuit.

I asked my friend Emanuel what the destiny of the bull would be?

“They will catch him, keep him separate from the herd tonight and calm him down in the morning.” He explained that if a bull gets too much blood to the head it makes him aggressive and this in turn results in the whole herd being unsettled.

            I woke the next morning to the painted face and scarred chest of a Mursi man staring at me through my mosquito net – not a vision that dreams are made of but certainly a sight to behold. He pulled at my ankle, pointed at my camera bag and gestured that I follow him.

            The rogue bull and two young Mursi men stood in what was an otherwise empty kraal. As we approached, one of the youngsters placed a rope – made of goat skin - around the bull’s neck and positioned himself between the back of the bull’s horns and its neck. The young man then got a firm grip on one horn with one hand while his other hand began to tighten the rope.

            The second young man began to ready himself with rudimentary bow and arrow. ‘Prince Not So Charming’ who had woken me from my slumber then stroked his hand over the bull’s neck feeling for the jugular. With his forefinger he marked the spot where the arrow was to be fired.

            Young Mursi man one then dug his heels in and tightened his grip on both the bull’s horn and the rope around its neck. Young Mursi man two pulled taught on his bow and arrow while Prince Uncharming crouched down with calabash in hand.

            THWACK…. The arrow hit its mark and was pulled out just as quickly. A fountain of blood erupted from the bull’s neck and spewed into the well positioned calabash. The consistent and strong flow of blood quickly filled the vessel.

            The rope was loosened, the blood flow stopped and a paste of ash and mud was placed over the neck wound. A small slow trickle of blood now the only sign of the previous 30 seconds’ drama.

            My Prince Uncharming then sat down and brought the calabash to his lips. Without stopping or ‘breaking stride’ he proceeded to consume what must have been approximately one and a half litres of pure, warm, unfiltered, unpasteurised bull blood.

            Placing the empty calabash on the ground next to him the Mursi man then hung his head and sat motionless for the next five minutes – I later found out that drinking blood initially makes one feel bloated and lethargic but thereafter it makes you “very strong”.

            I too sat down and waged war on myself for not having captured any images, that I had not even got my camera out of its bag. I lit a smoke – to make me strong – and consoled myself in the knowledge that I have never really considered myself an ‘action’ photographer.

            Just then Prince Uncharming began to make movements suggesting he was going to rise from his seated trans-like state. In seconds I was upright with camera in hand. I stood a few metres behind him and checked my exposure settings. He slowly rose to his feet and steadied himself in what was clearly a literal rush of blood to the head. It was now my turn to choose a point, take aim and shoot at the neck… And head and shoulders.

Loo With A View


The dhows had dropped off their ‘Island’ quota of fish at the Celeiro Fish Market andheaded back to the mainland. I too had decided to leave the market madness to make my way to the crumbling pier that had snuck into the side of my viewfinder earlier in the day.

Due to the fact that the pier was an extension of a building that I could not gain access to I had a precarious climb up the rocks to the side… but it was worth it. The sun had started to drop, the clouds were rolling in off the mainland and the tide was creeping up. With cracks wider than my shoes, ‘sinkholes’ leading straight through to the ocean below and half the concrete railing missing, my sense of stability was a little shaky.

I set up my tripod, waited and wondered if I too would be split in half if the pier suddenly gave way.

 It was then the first boy appeared, followed by another and another, all rushing to the end of the pier. “Ah, some fellow visual appreciators.” I thought. Wrong! It was very quickly apparent that the boys wanted to show me their cracks too. I had stumbled upon Ilha’s ‘loo with a view’. Not wanting to have my vision ruined I gave the boys a few coins to move aside and keep their shit together a little longer. I fired off a frame, got my shit together and moved aside.

Mr Drunk


The sun had set and I was on the wrong side of dusk when I spotted the enormous Bunyan tree. Knowing that the tree was begging to be photographed I returned the next day with time and my tripod. I took a few shots but knew that I just wasn’t capturing the enormity of the tree. I needed a person or object in the frame to help me portray the tree’s proportions.

It were as though I had screamed my thoughts… A very smart man (he had shiny shoes) approached me on his bicycle and gestured that he would like me to take his portrait.

‘Sure thing!” I told him and guided him into position… In front of the tree. He stood proudly beside his bike and I snapped away.

The ‘portrait shoot’ quickly drew a crowd that included a very excitable group of children who desperately wanted to be on camera. As I was positioning the kids for their group shot I heard a loud shout and turned toward the source, a stumbling man heading straight for me. The children and most of the crowd dispersed in all directions. I smelt the alcohol before the stranger was within two metres of me.

What followed was one of the most direct encounters I’ve ever had. It went like this,

Drunk Man: F*#> You! Give me money.

Me: No.

Drunk Man: F*#> You! Give me money.

Me: No.

Drunk Man: F*#> You! Give me money.

Me: No.

… …

And so it continued. The only changes coming when he started pushing me back on the chest and lightly slapping me across my jaw.

Realizing that I was not going to give in – more through anxiety than anything else – the man lunged past me and took my tripod hostage. Fortunately my camera was firmly in my grip.

The same conversation started up again but this time I realized that if I had any chance of using my tripod again I would have to pay up. I was about to give in when the harasser’s phone started ringing. To my surprise he answered it and proceeded to continue his rampage at the caller. With the drunk man’s attention diverted, a young boy – who had hung around for the spectacle – quickly snatched my tripod out of Mr Drunk’s grip and whizzed past me. I got the message and was hot on his heels. Safely a few hundred meters up the road the boy grinned and handed me my tripod. I smiled happily and gave him some money.

That evening I chuckled over the thought of how Mr Drunk Man would probably wake up with a thumper of a headache whilst I would wake up with a portrait of a cool man in black – Ilha’s Johnny Cash.