The Fear Of Affection

I can’t help but look. And look again.

Rhythm and swoon, their bodies meld, back and forth they sway, eyes locked on each other, hands waist level with fingers rippling like a sea of fish in an ocean of love.

Two men, friends, in Ethiopia.

In Western culture, we would label this display of affection as something other than a respectful acquaintance. But here in this land where mankind first existed, love is shared between men in a highly sensual, if not downright, erotic manner.

This, in the light of day, outside, in fresh open air.

For God’s sake.

The first time I saw this type of electricity pass between hard bodied and uber masculine men was in a dark bar, tucked away in the Piazza area of Addis Ababa. I watched in amazement as men beckoned one another to dance, their bodies aligned with the thump of bass that was spilling out of the too-close speakers. As two men conversed with dance, they each started out with patterned steps, tentative with each move, but always maintaining eye contact with each other, lest one might break the spell.

As they warmed up, in body and spirit, their movement became more erratic, but with more fever to stay on beat, and aligned with each other, legs woven. They are that close.

Do they have sex?! I blurt out, my USA need to label rising to my speech.

No. No, they don’t. They are friends.

Then how can they look at each other like that? Like THAT.

Once again, as often happens here, my words solicit a reaction of tilted-head amusement at my questions.

But, of course. Why wouldn’t men love one another? And show it? Isn’t this how we were born to relate?

I continue to watch with humble heart, feeling silly for asking such questions. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I see my Ethiopian friends watching me, intently, as I watch the swirl of energy in every direction.

You silly Western girl. Why does this fascinate you so?

I feel rhythm beckon me, and with tempered manner and the thrill of a new encounter, I take the hand of my friend.

Worldwide Photography Biennial Exhibition

One of my favorite images, “Abera”, was selected by Steve McCurry in his list of “special mentions by the juror” category and will be included in the curated exhibit opening at the Borges Cultural Center in December in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This image is dear to me because while I was deep in a remote area of Ethiopia photographing a midwife, I turned around and saw this young boy looking at me with the most intense expression. I had seconds to react, obtain his ok to permit me to photograph him, and not lose that moment where he seems to be looking into my soul.

My focus was off. I usually focus on the eyes, and in this image the center of focus is on his hands. But had I taken longer to compose the shot to my liking, I would have captured an entirely different portrait.

I look at this image almost every day to remind me of the level of humanity that is found in the spirit of the Ethiopian people.

(Funds from any sales of prints are returned to projects in Ethiopia.)


2012 Px3 Competition: Gold + Bronze

Today the Px3 competition in Paris, France announced their awards. My series, “The Market Workers“, won a Gold Medal in the Professional Portrait/Culture category, and my image “Abera” won a Bronze Medal in the Professional Fine Art/People category.

It is an honor to be included with such esteemed photographers. See all of the work, and vote for your favorite images for the People’s Choice awards here.

Most of all, I am thrilled to be able to present the beauty of Ethiopian people.

Mercy Corps: Featured Blog Post

Mercy Corps hired me to do some work in Gidole and Konso areas when I was in Ethiopia last month. They produced a slideshow of images that was featured in their newsletter and on their website on International Women’s Day. I hope our combined efforts bring forth increased awareness regarding how important it is to support a girl’s education in rural areas within Ethiopia.

Copyright 2015 Joni Kabana. All rights reserved. Site by TD