30 photos for a global image to sum up my last 8 years in Africa.

javier-acebal-portfolio-14Sometimes it’s a good idea to stop for a moment, have a look at the last few years and make the exercise of writing down in a paper or collecting the images and moments that were important for us in any way, and then take a look again at the result! Personally, I think it is a way to remember things that sometimes, forced maybe by the everyday routine, we forget.

So, I did it. I checked ALL the photos I’ve published in Ancorpiu and I made a folder with at least one picture of these important moments. There were many more than I expected so I had to choose 30 for sharing them with you: this is kind of a portfolio for my last eight years. There are other kind of photos I do (commercial, news, events…) but I prefer to focus on those I have already published on this website (in fact, I don’t like to mix a photo of a Minister with a plate of shrimps!).

Here we start!

An Ethiopian school in the South.
This is the first image I’ve published in Ancorpiu and one that helped me to win the 1st Solidarity photography contest (2009, Diputación de Jaen, Spain): A school in Ethiopia (2006). The first thing that impressed me when arrived in Ethiopia (the first after be surprised for a snow storm in a place I supposed it was almost a desert before arriving) was the kids in the schools. Before arriving, I had an idea about Ethiopia from the mass media like only images in black and white of poor-mute-motionless children with no food, flies on their faces and like an implicit connotation of moveless, hopeless and silence death. And then, I arrived and found colors and happy kids running to the schools, talking loud, singing and playing; children (most with a lot of problems) that WANT to go to the school and learn to be a maybe a doctor of a teacher: most of them cannot afford the studies, but there’s a dream in their lives.

A mother with her son at the hospital in Ethiopia

Father and daughter at hospital in Ethiopia.

Hospital of Bushulo, Ethiopia, 2006. Unfortunately, still too many people are suffering serious diseases and it’s very difficult for them to afford the treatments. That’s why people wait to the very last moment to go to the doctor and, most of the times, is too late. It really shocked me when I met this father and his daughter (second photo above) , they had just arrived from their village with an advanced tuberculosis infection (both).

Awassa Youth Campus.

When I was in my early twenties, I would picture a circus as something linked to the characters you could find in the movie Freaks, Lionel the Lion-faced boy, giants like Karl from the movie Big Fish and of course the traditional show of animals and clowns, that was it. Then I discovered Awassa Youth Campus (Ethiopia, 2006) and their Circus, a group with an activity working to develop social awareness about problems like HIV or gender violence, where their participants found powerful tools for their lives. Find more info in this other article I published.

The Tadelech's bar in Ethiopia.

Boricha Woreda, Ehiopia, 2007. The Tadelech’s bar. Can you imagine yourself working 365 days per year, preparing 150 meals a day in a bar that you run and earning 15€… PER YEAR?! Find the story of Tadelech here. In the photo above, a friend of Tadelech is sitting in front of 3 men drinking Araki (a local strong liquor).

A borena family.

Yabello Woreda, Ethiopia, 2007. The Eleema’s home: a borena’s hut. I remember myself talking with the Eleema’s family about the Gada system (their government system, quite interesting!), gender, life in general and religion. They explained to me that for them, the nature is the base of the life and death is a fact, something normal, so when a person dies, the body will be left behind a tree to be used by the nature, as the body used the nature before. Then they asked me about what we do with the corpses and I felt ashamed trying to explain that we keep the body in a box to be stored in some kind of shelves! Find more info about the Eleema story here.

A woman collecting water.

Dembella, Ethiopia 2007. Sinana really impressed me: she barely talked to me, not because she was rude but because she had not a moment to stop. She worked SO hard all the time: cleaning the house, the corral, milking the cows, working the land, feeding the kids, cooking and collecting water. I still remember her carrying almost 50L of water (which weight 50kg) on her back for 20 minutes, from the spot where she collects the water. Impressive! Check her store.

Farming in Casamance.

After a gap in Spain I decided to go back to Africa… Time for Senegal, doing the European Volunteer Service. I faced there the other side of the biggest sub-Saharan immigrant group in Spain, specially the situation of the women in the country. The result was the exhibit Women through the Border with Luna Vives.

Guediawaye, Dakar.

Dakar, 2008: A group of women hand-washing clothes in Guédiawaye, a suburb of Dakar where most households depend on the remittances sent home by their relatives in Europe. Another image included in the exhibit in Granada.

Rawan Diallo, 2009

Thiaroye, 2009. Living for half a year in the slum districts of Dakar offered me the possibility of meeting interesting people flourishing in harmed environment, like Rawan Diallo, at that time a 14 years old boy who loved to do hip-hop with his friends and now, in 2014, has a good artistic CV including apparitions on TV.

A street in Guediawaye, Dakar.

Again a gap, again going back. 2011, a view of Guediawaye during the night. Kids are watching the Madrid-Barça soccer match on the bakery’s TV. Meanwhile, some bakers are taking a rest, talking and drinking tea. This is just a normal night in Guediawaye. Find more images here.

Ibou et Nene. Dakar.

Let’s party! We’re in Senegal (Dakar) on a wedding between Ibou from Ivory Coast and Nene from Mauritania!

Ami Diop

Guediawaye, 2011. Living with a family helps me a lot to better understand the culture and to practice with my new camera! Ami Diop (photo) always helps me when I need to find a model, even though she wasn’t very happy that day.

A party in Dakar

Guediawaye 2011. Joy, joy and more joy. Celebrations are happiness, and that’s what this picture shows. Another wedding, another chance to laugh, sing, clap and dance.

Mame Fatou and Mohamed Diop at the hospital. Dakar.

Guediawaye, 2012. Riiiiing! The phone is ringing, a call from Guediawaye… “Javi! You need to come! Mame Fatou just gave birth to a boy!” When I got there I found them laying on a stretcher, in a small delivery room with only few beds and a rudimentary equipment for the “assistance” to women when giving birth… The task must be really hard under these conditions, but she was happy and beautifully looking at Mohammed, his son.

A Senegalese wedding.

Parcelles, 2012. The wedding is maybe the biggest celebration in the life of a Senegalese: walking around you can easily find an improvised tent for a meeting or a celebration where people are dancing, eating or praying. Binta and Ameth were getting married this time.

Traditional senegalese dance.

Dakar, 2012. Tradition is still present in the everyday life in Senegal. I had the chance to attend a great traditional dance festival, but I won’t even try to explain with words the emotions or the energy I felt in there when I have pictures for that.

Aziz in Guediawaye.

Tabasky Celebration, 2013. People get really well dressed for that day, and go visit their friends and families. It is an interesting date that most of the Muslim Senegaleses celebrate with joy. My friends were very happy to be in the pictures, but Aziz (photo) thinks he’s more handsome when he looks serious.

A wrestler training in the gym

Dakar, 2013. Wrestling is a multitudinous sport that has become into an authentic social phenomenon of great transcendence in the country, very top in relevancy and prominence to any other sports. Professional wrestlers like Djily Mbaye (photo) follow a hard daily training on the beach and gym.

The senegalese wrestler, Djily Mbaye.

Dakar, 2013. The most important part of the Senegalese wrestling – the magic – still remains intact from the origins of the sport and therefore the Marabouts keep preparing different good-luck charms, potions and spells to enforce and bless the fighter. I accompanied the wrestler Djily Mbaye during the previous hours and during his combat at the stadium. I firstly photographed the most private ritual at his house (praying, dressing the good-luck charms, speaking spells, using the potions…) and then the ambience and the part of the ritual done at the stadium. Cova Álvarez and me published a book about this, check it here!

Circus in Dakar.

Dakar, 2013. Once again, I re-discover the Circus. Mamadou got the polio but he kept fighting. With him I learned the meaning of resilience and personal growth.

Project funded by the AECID in Casamance.

Kolda 2013, Development is necessary, and small projects can change people’s life, especially when talking about food security in the rural areas. I had the chance to document the impact of the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation in Senegal. (Photo credits: ©Javier Acebal – AECID)


Bignona 2013. Life can be hard when you work products with your own hands. It’s not only about the damage on the hands, but also about how time and energy consuming it is. Women are overcharged with tasks in the rural areas of Senegal, so simple and effective machinery can truly facilitate their lives. (Photo credits: ©Javier Acebal – AECID)

La AECID en Senegal

Ziguinchor 2013. Studying is a very serious thing, not everybody has access to school and not everybody is aware of the importance of the education. But education opens the doors for development, to self-consciousness and to freedom. Don’t look at the camera, look at the board. (Photo credits: ©Javier Acebal – AECID)

Absa Kâ

Malem Hodar 2013. This little girl (Absa Kâ) captivated me with her cheeky smile, she loved being photographed and I loved photographing her. She’s from a village where Sightsavers NGO works to prevent illnesses, and that morning was the time of the children. (Photo credits: ©Javier Acebal – Sightsavers)

Fode Drame

Kaffrinne 2013. Fode is a talibé, one of those kids sent to a Daara to learn the Quran. Some daaras are just schools, some are not and the kids live in very bad conditions and they are forced to beg for money on the streets under the threat of being punished even with violence or sexual abuse. (Photo credits: ©Javier Acebal – Sightsavers)

Hafe Mbaye

Kaffrinne 2013. Hafe Mbaye is a Baye Fall from a village called Malem Hodar. He had a trachoma and had lost his vision. Thanks to Sightsavers NGO he had his operation done and now he can see again. Look at his smile… we don’t realize how important health is until we’ve lost it. (Photo credits: ©Javier Acebal – Sightsavers)

Awa Ndiaye (pacient)
Kaffrinne 2013. The resources in Kaffrinne Region are very limited and even some NGOs like Sightsavers are doing a great job to improve the situation, still many people are not being treated. Ousmane Camara is a good doctor and a resourceful man who trained the nurses to do the basic surgeries and be able to assist more people. (Photo credits: ©Javier Acebal – Sightsavers)

A bakery in Senegal
Mar Lodj 2013. It’s 5 AM, Babacar has been working for an hour already and the bread dough is getting baked. The people from the village are about to arrive to get their “tapalapa” for breakfast and lunch. I have already enjoyed mine and the sun hasn’t risen yet.

A traditional boat in Joal.

Joal-Fadiouth 2013. Thierno’s been a piroguier for the last 20 years and he loves it. He told me he prefers to stay by himself with the sea than with the human beings, they have betrayed him too many times. Still he always smiles and shows a very positive attitude for life.

Javier Acebal

About the author: Javier Acebal

I'm a photographer based in Dakar (West Africa). I love to document cultures and people! (but also working for tourism industry).

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