There was once a beautiful African township on the fringes of the Indian ocean. Steeped in history, it mirrored the multitudes of those who’d helped create it over time, especially the master builders from the Indian continent.
By the end of British rule, it was a perfect example of a well maintained old colonial town, with its varied architectural heritage intact. It remained so, until mass demolition of its centre in the last decade, which is still ongoing. For many people, who cared for old Dar es Salaam, there the love affair ended.
But not for Muzaffer Sulemani, better known as acclaimed local artist Muzu. Born in Zanzibar, his family connection to Dar, where he grew up, goes back to his grandfather who arrived in the then small harbour town in l874.
After studying Applied Arts in Bombay, and graphic design in Switzerland, the young Muzu became interested in photography when his two brothers founded the Colour Centre in l972, a photo lab on Samora Avenue.
Decades on, that interest, honed and perfected has resulted in the exceptional book, Contemporary Dar es Salaam. As its cover says, taking photographs is the artist’s way of articulating his perception of the world around him, as well as being a chance to record history, and preserve valuable memories.
In doing so, the handsome author himself, might possibly have memories, but of a scary kind, as some of the aerial shots in the book, were taken from a small plane, with the doors removed to facilitate the process!.
Photographs are also a basis for his paintings, and he has been exhibiting both since l991, still finding inspiration in the narrow winding streets of his birthplace. A charismatic popular couple, Muzu and his wife Zoe, run ART ‘n’ FRAME, an art gallery in Msasani, near Oyster Bay shopping centre. Now firmly established as a favourite destination and magnet for art lovers, it’s also a supportive platform for aspiring artists whatever their speciality.
With photographs taken over a period of ten years, the first edition of Contemporary Dar es Salaam, was published in 2010. The 1,500 copies sold out, and the revised version is now on sale at 60,000sh from Tanzania Publishing House, Novel Idea book stores, and Art ‘n’ Frame.
There’s certain types of publications, referred to as ‘coffee table’ books, as they look impressive, or inviting lying around for visitors to browse through. Applicable to this one also, but with 250 photographs in the hard cover book, forming a stunning pictorial record of this vibrant city, for Dar dwellers especially, of whatever background, it is likely to engage their whole attention. As will the interesting introduction by Ghalib Jafferji.
The photos in this book, whilst chronicling the present Dar, also serve to remind us of the one long gone. Or to quote the cover piece, “It’s a love letter to the old and the new, because as a wise man once said…in this great future, you cannot forget your past”.