After 2 weeks in the highlands of Lesotho I’m back in Johannesburg for a couple days to wash the dust off and get the bumps massaged out before beginning the long journey home. The highlight this morning was waking up in a bed that was not my sleeping bag, and getting a cup of coffee that was not powdered Nescafe. But I’d do it all again (and will!) for the experience I just had.
The last two weeks in Lesotho (look at a map of South Africa. See the donut hole in the south-east? That’s the Kingdom of Lesotho) were among the purest travel experiences I’ve ever had. I don’t know of another way to put it. I traveled with two friends, one functioning as my producer, the other as my fixer. The latter spent 3 years living in Lesotho and knew the language and the communities in which we traveled, making an otherwise impenetrable country much easier. For fourteen days we hiked through villages, took horses into valleys, and drove the Land Rover through high mountain passes, all to connect with, and photograph, the balisana (pronounced badisana), the shepherds of the highlands of the mountain kingdom. The word “epic” got used a lot, never in exaggeration. We saw no tourists, and no NGO workers, both normally so ubiquitous in Africa.
The shepherds are a fascinating culture all their own and this is, I hope, the start of a long term project to photograph them. We spent time with them in all weather – arriving in Lesotho to a foot of snow and a blizzard, and leaving the country in heat and sunshine – and photographed them doing everything from watching their flocks to shearing them and going to church on Sunday to dance their hearts out. I can’t wait to go back.
Here are a few of the photographs from the trip. If you’re on my mailing list and getting The Contact Sheet, you’ll get a more robust PDF monograph that represents a better first peak at this work. I’ll send that out once I’m home and have a moment to put it together.
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