Africa in Focus 2021 – Behind this Year’s Signature Image

28 Jan 2022
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Wilderness Safaris is proud to bring you our fifth annual photographic competition – Africa in Focus – which opens on 1 September 2021. The signature image that you will be seeing shared throughout the competition this year is the evocative “Willow”, last year’s People/ Culture and Community category winner, by Giovanna Aryafara.

This magnificent photo of an African child could not be more fitting for the competition this year, with its all-female judging panel and the sole beneficiary being Children in the Wilderness (CITW).

A key focus of the competition is to showcase the photographers and their amazing talent, and as such we asked Giovanna to tell us a bit more about herself, and provide some information on the photograph. We uncovered a heart-warming story of an outstanding woman and remarkable photographer.

Who is Giovanna Aryafara?

Giovanna’s life-long passion for photography started 40 years ago in Sydney, Australia, and continued in New Zealand where she was a school photographer for several years. Now resident in Bali, Giovanna travels to India and Ethiopia yearly, both for her business and photography. Her love for photography, art, fabrics, and tribal crafts come together at her highly regarded homeware and lifestyle stores, “Bungalow Living Bali”.

As a photographer, Giovanna travels the world in search of subjects that awaken our emotions, invoke a sense of shared spirituality, and reveal our world through a minimalist, design-inspired lens. Her works offer access to the beauty of our Earth, inspired by her love of sharing the diversity of the human experience. Giovanna is dedicated to the promotion of awareness of these stories and supports human rights organisations around the world that help create a more just environment for all.

Follow Giovanna on Instagram for more brilliant images

What Inspired Your Award-Winning Photo, “Willow”?

I have been travelling to Ethiopia’s Omo Valley for the last six years, photographing the people. There are many tribes here, including the Hamar, Daasanach, Abore, and others . But the Suri are the ones that I have connected with on a personal level, and have been accepted into some of the families. This personal connection has reached the point where they wanted to meet my husband and daughter, which we did on my last trip. They held a small family ceremony to officially accept us, and offered a goat sacrifice (even though my daughter and I are vegetarian). At this very personal time, we camped by the river, and it gave us a lot of quality time to talk about the problems that they face, such as lack of education, and the future of the next generations, especially the females.

My inspiration for photographing the Suri is to capture the amazing connection they have with nature, which they express through their body art, using natural clay from the river. They grind it down to a paste with different colours and apply the body paint in a very artistic way, combining seasonal and exotic flowers, plants, berries, and seed pods, with patterns inspired by birds and other natural elements. They have been doing this for hundreds of years.

It was very late in the afternoon just as the light was starting to fade when I spotted this young Suri girl at a distance. She appeared like a nymph in the wild lush wilderness. I didn’t have any time to change my lens otherwise she would have disappeared. I quickly held up my camera and took this shot, holding my breath, hoping she wouldn't look away. I felt a rush of excitement and I pressed the shutter twice as she stared into the lens for a short few seconds – I knew I had captured the moment.

What Convinced You to Enter Our Competition Last Year?

A photographer friend of mine suggested that I enter the competition, which is a new experience for me, and it turned out to be a great one! I am still grateful to my friend who recommended it.

I would definitely urge any photographers to join the competition. I was overwhelmed by the responses and encouragement from the photographic community (plus my husband was super thrilled that the prize is for two people, so we can enjoy our African safari together!)

CCELA and Who is Naluguru

I support the Care for Children and Elders Life Association (CCELA) as they are a non-political, not-for-profit, privately run humanitarian organisation. They currently provide a loving, secure home environment for six toddlers, aged between one and four years of age, and five adolescent girls.

Thanks to the relationship that I have with the Suri, I quickly realised we share the same idea of how important it is to have education for the young ones. The parents understand the benefits of having their daughters going to the university level of education.

In fact, my husband and I now sponsor an Ethiopian child called Naluguru, whom we feel as close to as our own daughter. I met Nalu in Ethiopia and immediately felt a connection with the little girl. After getting to know her and her family, it was clear that there was something special about her. I decided to set up a sponsorship with the help of CCELA for her education and her wellbeing – in her own country, so that later hopefully she can give back to her own people. Nalu is now studying in Addis Ababa and lives in a very loving environment. She even refers to us as “mom” and “dad”, and we call each other on the phone or video-call twice a week.