We are in the process of upgrading software and the SDN website will be temporarily unavailable for a few hours on Monday morning EST. Once the software is upgraded, this notice will no longer appear and the site will be back to normal. We apologize for any inconvenience.
  • Image 1 of 0

Zanzibar: A Tale Beyond Fiction

Ania Gruca | Zanzibar, Zanzibar

The name “Zanzibar” conjures up a certain image in Western public imagination ­– fragrant spices, Arab nights romance, and Indian Ocean exoticism – but this small archipelago off the East African coast, and part of Tanzania, is also a place entrenched into political modernity. Since 2010 I have been consistently documenting life in Zanzibar, hoping to advance both an understanding and an appreciation of this complex society. In this project, I am concerned with the social construction of Zanzibar as a result of its effort to adapt to global integration and with crafting a body of work that reflects this society’s own reality and vision both of and for itself.  

The name “Zanzibar” conjures up a certain image in Western public imagination ­– fragrant spices, Arab nights romance, and Indian Ocean exoticism – but this small archipelago off the East African coast, and part of Tanzania, is also a place entrenched into political modernity. On October 25th 2015, Zanzibaris alongside their Tanzanian fellows voted at the general election. Tanzania’s new president John Magufuli was promptly announced at the national level but in Zanzibar – which has its own president, legislature and electoral body – presidential results have been put on standby until today. The negotiations taking place between the two main parties in the archipelago, the ruling party CCM (Chama Cha Mapinduzi, Party of the Revolution) and the opposition party CUF (Civic United Front) in order to sort out this electoral predicament have not yet been successful.

 

This political impasse brings to the surface internal complexities embedded in century-old historical divisions and reflects, at the same time, the deficiency of the democratic system in Zanzibar. The archipelago is a social laboratory with a population just over 1.5 million sharing a tumultuous history driven by various waves of Arabic, Africa, Asian, Comorian and European migration, notably under slavery and colonization. This kaleidoscopic history makes Zanzibar a unique place characterized by its creolized identity yet where politics has been divided along the lines of race and place of origins. Once described as the Metropolis of “Eastern Africa”, because it was a distinctive place of economic power, religious knowledge and cultural pride, Zanzibar today is vulnerable. Everyday living conditions are at stake in an archipelago where the majority still lives in great poverty without access to basic services like schools and hospitals, socio-economic inequalities dramatically increased, and the political power rules by force and arbitrariness.

 

Since 2010 I have been consistently documenting life in Zanzibar, hoping to advance both an understanding and an appreciation of this complex society. Exploring social and economic lifestyles alongside major political events and religious celebrations, I strove to capture the archipelago’s ongoing search to redefine itself through new ways of expressions, increased commitment to Islam and emerging political consciousness in a fast-changing environment. But in the background lays the story of an archipelago in the wake of its independence, forced to build itself within the country of Tanzania rather than as a fully-fledged nation, and increasingly overwhelmed by rapid development and foreign influence resulting from the growth of the tourism sector. A recurrent theme of a nation’s potential exploited to the reach of exogenous actors.

 

In this project, I am concerned with the social construction of Zanzibar as a result of its effort to adapt to global integration and with crafting a body of work that reflects this society’s own reality and vision both of and for itself.  The current political crisis has reached the culmination point of Zanzibar’s bare reality. The reality of a small nation whose right to self-definition and self-expression has dangerous limitations. In my intention to capture a tiny political entity through its aspirations and struggles I am aiming to shed light on the idea that there are no small or big nations, and that the right to political acknowledgment and self-determination should never be denied. 

Ania Gruca

+1 917 378 0363

aniagruca@gmail.com

Content loading...

Make Comment/View Comments