“Looking for a gift? I have something nice, come here and look!”
A cheerful woman stopped me at the roadside after a short-time rainfall.
Her unique tribal outfit made a great contrast to the modern city.
Thick hair plaits, reddish skin colour, and exposed breasts.
She was a woman of Himba, the last (semi) nomadic people in Namibia.
Curiously approached, I saw her having an accessory-like thing in her hand.
“What is it?”
“Our tribal bracelet, I can give you a good price!”
The milky-white coloured bracelet was lightly covered with red dirt.
“I made this by myself,” she said.
“Is it made of bone?”
“Used to be, but we use plastic nowadays. We recycle polyvinyl pipes. It’s our latest fashion trend!”
She laughed and started singing loudly and joyfully.
Her song continued while I was looking at a set of her bracelets.
There were various patterns and designs of animals, plants, and the Himba culture.
Himba people lead their traditional nomadic life in the northern part of Namibia.
Ancestor worship and witchcraft (black magic) play important roles in their society.
Like her, some of them have adapted to changes in their modernized environment and have settled, but still Himba people are bearers of the significant African nomadic culture to be transmitted to the next generation.
“What song were you singing, by the way?”
I asked her who was now dandling her baby.
“A prayer song. I prayed to spirits to carry the rain all the way to my homeland in the north where you find no water.”
Looking up the grey sky, my thoughts went to the northern dry land.
Then she threw down one bracelet in front of me.
“It’s good for you. The colour matches your skin!“
It was the least typical tribal patterned bracelet.
“Okay, I will take this.”
Two couples of two-way arrows are facing each other, and there was a big slash mark in the middle.
The arrows seemed artless.
“What do these arrows mean?”
She looked at me with her friendly smile.
I looked at the bracelet closely, and talked to myself.
We shook hands, and I started away.
As I put the bracelet on, I hoped the rain would reach her homeland soon.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Windhoek)
"What are you doing here?”
The boy asked me wonderingly.
He might not have seen outsiders so often.
"I am looking for something important here,” I replied.
"What is that? Is it here?” he seemed confused and asked.
"I don't know actually. I even don't know what is important to me.”
I shrugged my shoulders and answered.
The boy said "hum," and began to run with his kite in a morning mist.
Without looking back at me, he shouted "If you want something important, a kite is good. It's fun!”
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Klaaskreek)
After having a conversation about our view of life, the elder man sitting next to me asked.
"So, you are living for only your joy without having a sense of responsibility for anybody, right? Then, what would you say when God asked you what you had done in your life at the end of your life?"
I understood that he was not blaming me by seeing his gentle smile.
"Well, I would say "I loved my life fully.""
He seemed a bit surprised.
"Umm, but don't you think that it would not be good enough when God gave you your life to be a good person, and help other people?"
His voice remained friendly, but it slightly contained a sound of confusion.
I shrugged with a smile, and said "when you give a gift to somebody, "OMG, I love this!" is not good enough to make you feel happy?"
The elder man with wisdom wrinkles in his face said "I see... interesting," as if he talked to himself.
He gave me a soft smile, and closed his eyes to get some sleep.
A peaceful silence separated us.
Behind him, solemn daybreak was spreading outside windows.
I repeated his question in my mind while my eyes were catching the glorious sky changing its colors moment by moment.
Now, another day began like yesterday did.
But one day, this cycle will end, and I might end up standing in front of the Creator as the elder man said.
I hope I would be able to remember all the beautiful moments I had got through my life when I stood there, then it would be the time to say "Thank God!" directly face to face.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Singapore)
"You will be my company, won't you?!"
When I passed a small shrine on my way to a bus stop, an old lady sitting inside the shrine shouted at me.
It was a very hot day.
"I have waited for somebody to help me all day long here, but nobody showed up until now. I almost became a stone!"
I had no idea what she was talking about.
She gave me a sharp gaze, and asked me once more.
"Can you be my company, huh?!"
Her upper body (even with her hat) was fitting snugly in the tiny shrine room as if she was worshiped there.
Without understanding the situation well, I accepted her request anyway, and we began to walk arm in arm.
On the way, she asked me to pick up some rugs on the street.
They were wet.
I assumed that she washed them, and put them on the ground to dry.
I was not sure if I should tell her that her rugs were still wet, but she seemed pretty certain that her mission was accomplished.
So I picked them up.
The wet rugs were too heavy for her to carry indeed.
"Are you travelling alone?!"
She asked me in a loud voice.
She continued "Life is short but long as well. You need a company sometimes as I did today."
I smiled, and responded.
Only walking for three minutes, we already arrived at her house.
There was a courtyard after the entrance, and one lady was doing her laundry there.
The old lady again shouted.
"I have waited for somebody to come at the shrine all day long! I almost became a stone there!"
The laundry lady dubiously looked at me who was carrying backpack on his back and some wet rugs in his hand.
The old lady opened a door to her room, and told me to put the rugs down on a dirt floor.
I hesitated a bit to put the washed rugs on the dirt floor directly, so I looked at the old lady.
Sitting on her bed she seemed confident with her decision, I followed her order.
Then she asked me in a loud voice.
"How much for this help?!"
"No, no. It's fine."
She replied "Oh, thank you! Remember, you need a company when you do something illogical!"
She pointed at the wet rugs on the dirt floor and grinned.
After a few seconds silence, I realized that she taught me something important by teasing me.
"Thank you, I will remember that."
So saying and smiling, I left her room.
"I will pray for you to meet a nice company on your way, a journey man!"
She shouted at my back.
I greeted the laundry lady (this time she gave me a friendly smile back), and crossed the courtyard.
As opening the door to the outside, I heard the old lady's shouting again behind me.
"I was waiting for somebody all day long! I thought I was going to be a stone!"
I shook my head with a bitter smile, and headed to a bus stop under a burning sun.
The feel of the wet rugs still remained in my hands.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Humahuaca)
She was alone waiting for her bus when I was crossing the street.
It was at dusk.
Reflection of headlights was sliding on asphalt like a shooting star.
She was gazing into a way where her bus would come from.
When I was passing her, our eyes met.
I smiled and said "it's an anthropological twilight, isn't it?"
She smiled faintly, and said "can't you speak Portuguese?"
I was little embarrassed and replied "no, but a little bit of Spanish."
Before I found what to talk about next, her bus arrived.
She gave me a tranquil smile, and said "adios."
I thought that she said so.
I watched her getting on the bus without words.
A door closed, and the bus disappeared in the dusk with her silhouette.
I turned round, and began to walk.
Then I suddenly realized that she actually said "hasta la vista."
"Okay, till the next time."
I smiled at the way where her bus was gone to, and then looked up at a purple sky.
"Yeah, it is an anthropological twilight," I talked to myself.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Brasilia)
The man was usually sleeping on a street right behind the central post office of Georgetown, Guyana.
When I saw him for the first time, my eyes were immediately glued to his funny glasses.
They were funny, but suited him very well, and made his presence so unique.
One day, he was unusually awake when I came along the street.
Since I was very interested, I could not stop myself talking to him.
“Excuse me, could I take your photo?”
He did not understand my question, and asked me back.
“You mean you want me to take your photo?”
“No no, I would like to take your photo.”
I smiled and replied.
“My photo? Why?”
He was a bit confused, but showed me a nice smile.
“Because your eyes are beautiful,” I told him.
Yes, he had really beautiful eyes, and I certainly caught the moment when his eyes met mine through his special glasses.
After took his photo, I asked a silly question him just out of curiosity.
“Do you see well with those strange glasses?”
Smoking his cigar with a content look, he answered to my question gently.
“Glasses are not only for seeing things better, but also for not seeing things too much.”
He smiled, and lay down.
The usual scene came back.
I thanked him, and left there.
While walking away I thought I was going to remember this fortunate meeting with the wise man of beautiful eyes for a long long time.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Georgetown)
“Brother, as long as you can smoke and sleep anytime you want, this small bus stop can be a nice house of yours,” saying so, he laughed out loud, and lit his cigarette.
He used old notebooks that he picked up from somewhere for rolling a cigarette, so some numerical formulas or diagrams were seen on his cigarette sometimes.
Obviously he did not care about that.
He had nice stuff to live comfortably on the street like homemade pickled vegetables.
One day, he sang a song for me.
It was very beautiful, and melancholic melody.
I did not expect such a delicate singing voice of his since he always laughed with his deep voice.
He told me that the song was from his hometown.
I understood that he did’t sing in Portuguese, but could not know what language it was.
Well, it might not be important to him.
He was content with his life at the bus stop anyway.
Recently I found that he left the bus stop.
I was worried, and I asked people at kiosks behind the bus stop what happened to him.
It could be that the police removed him, or he became sick, or somebody attacked him…
But according to the kiosk workers, he moved because there were too many people using the bus stop all day long nowadays, and he could not sleep well anymore.
I laughed (not like him), and imagined him humming and rolling a cigarette at a corner of somewhere in this town.
He might be saying to somebody “brother, this corner can be your nice house!” and laugh out loud right now.
I hope you can sleep well there, brother!
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Brasilia)
There are flowers that bloom in one of the driest places on earth.
They bloom only when enough rain falls.
It takes three years, or four years, and sometimes more than ten years, but they will bloom.
Now the world seems merciless and toughest ever to mankind.
But I believe in that there is always humanity among us no matter how the world treats us.
When I saw beautiful flowers in full bloom in the driest desert in the world, I was struck with awe by the power of nature.
And I felt that nature told me that we should keep our hope in humanity as flowers can bloom even in this barren land.
We can bloom flowers of love, peace, and freedom if we don’t forget that we can do it.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Atacama Desert)
Noriyoshi Kishikawa is a Japanese legendary photographer who once fascinated Yve Saint Laurent, Issey Miyake, King Carl Gustaf of Sweden, and many more by his unique photography.
He became a successful commercial photographer shortly after graduated his photography school in the late 1960s, though which was a very rare case at that time in Japan.
Young photographers were expected to be apprenticed before becoming independent in those days.
He did not like the tradition as he was a “rebel” (according to himself).
Before long, he got tired of commercial photography, and began to travel around the world in 1970s.
During his stay in Paris and Stockholm, he made a set of photographs respectively “The 1970s in Paris” and “The Norse Azure”.
“The Norse Azure” was exhibited in Tokyo in 1980s, and that success brought him back to front and center of the Japanese photography scene.
Soon he became one of the top fashion photographers of Japan, but his glorious days suddenly ended by serious lung disease that caused constant difficulty in breathing.
He had to withdraw from the front ranks of fashion photography, and ended up becoming a master at a small cafe bar in Tokyo.
That cafe bar was where I met him for the first time.
Whenever I visited there, he told me interesting stories from his journey life.
I understood that the time I spent with him was a source of my inspiration.
Since then, I have called him “my vagabond mentor”.
One day, he told me that he had two things to do before he die.
One was to go back to Stockholm, and look up the white night sky which gave young Kishikawa an unforgettable impression, and made him realized what he really wanted to photograph.
The other one was to go to Borneo Island to take photographs of orangutans once more.
He went to Borneo 23 years ago, and photographed orangutans for a book which was published in 1993.
When I met him in 2010, he already could not walk more than 5 minutes without a rest because of an aftereffect of his lung disease.
I told him that I would be his assistant in Borneo when he got a chance someday.
Now, the time has finally come.
After been pushed by me for this five years, he made his mind to carry out his mission even though he knew that it could give him a tough time to walk in the tropical Jungle with his broken lung.
I, myself knew that it would be an irreplaceable experience for me to see my mentor’s devoting all his energy to shooting photos right next to him.
Year 2016, July 16th, the legendary photographer Noriyoshi Kishikawa at last set his foot on the Jungle island again, and completed one-week photo shooting on 24th.
This story is a tribute to a great vagabond who taught me that our journey never ends, only the phrase of “to be continued” awaits us at where we think that is an end.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Sandakan)
Igón Lerchundi is one of the pioneers and the grand masters in the art of miming in Latin America.
When I met him at his theater in Buenos Aires, I was mentally down by the sudden death of my close friend.
Igón consoled me that this world was made of one big soul, and we were always spiritually connected even when we could not physically see each other.
Igón’s childhood in Basque was in the midst of the dictatorship and the world war, and he had seen blood-smeared reality, but he never gave up his hope in love and humanity.
“Even when the world seems at its darkest moment, people including you and me are like stars in the dark sky, and they can shine the world. Don’t lose your hope.”
His word will be always guiding me to a direction where light comes in.
(photo & story by Tengyo Kura, Buenos Aires)