GROUND LEVEL, COLES COURT ADJOINING GALLERY 1
UGANDA, BORN 1980
LIVES AND WORKS IN NAIROBI
The photographs in Sarah Waiswa’s 2016 series Stranger in a familiar land are staged portraits of an albino woman, Florence Kisombe, captured within the Kibera slums in Kenya. The photographs oscillate between seemingly documentary images of Kisombe interacting with local people, and highly staged, surrealist-inspired photographs of the woman set in the rough, urban landscape. Working closely with the model to choreograph each scene, Waiswa’s images convey the cruel realities of a woman being rejected because of her physical appearance within her own country. Describing her model, Waiswa wrote: ‘[Kisombe] is very outgoing, wants to be a model, and I knew she would be perfect for the project. The concept of Stranger in a familiar land groups together various portraits of an albino woman set against the backdrop of the Kibera slums, which are a metaphor for my turbulent vision of the outside world. The series also explores how the sense of non-belonging has led her to wander and exist in a dreamlike state. People notice Kisombe, but at the same time, they don’t.’
Sarah Waiswa moved to the United States in 1999 and completed an undergraduate degree in Sociology at Berea College, Kentucky, and a master’s degree in Industrial and Organisational Psychology at Eastern Kentucky University. After working for several years in the corporate field, Waiswa moved to Kenya in 2010 and turned to photography as a means of reconnecting, visually, with her home. In 2015, she abandoned her corporate career to focus entirely on photography. That same year she was a category winner in the Uganda Press Photo Award. In 2016 Waiswa was awarded the prestigious Rencontres d’Arles Discovery Award, which is given to a photographer whose work has been recently discovered, for her Stranger in a familiar land series.