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Books | Michele Sibiloni: Fuck it

Take a tour through the streets of Kampala at night, where debauchery is a way of life.

Miss Rosenby Miss Rosen

spreads-fuck-it_11Michele Sibiloni walks the streets of Kampala, Uganda, at night with his camera, taking raw and awkward photographs of what he discovers along the way. He heads in to Kabalagala, the city’s dive bar district, capturing the strange and surreal sights he witnesses. The photographs are collected in Fuck it (Edition Patrick Frey), a beautifully produced glossy paperback featuring some of the most unusual characters on the night scene.

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In the book’s introduction, David Cecil draws up a list of those featured in the book including, “Street-walkers, good-time girls, vagabonds, village fools, rastas, pimps, drunken expats, drunken locals, drunken everybody, underpaid guards, overworked bouncers, old-timers, orphans, urchins, beggars, hoodlums, hustlers, grasshopper vendors, all kinds of cops, NGO workers and back-alley exorcists.”

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This list wonderfully conveys the feeling you’re not entirely sure who, what, where, why, or what, but like a good drink, it’s, Fuck it, bottoms up! The photographs evoke the feeling of that last drink you should not have had, but you don’t know that yet. There’s a feeling that things are going downhill, but there’s still five minutes left—and in that time, you’re going to live. How else to explain the photograph of the empty street littered with nothing but tumbleweave?

Uganda has slowly been making a turnaround since the country, despite the many plagues its faced including 70 years of brutal British colonization. The country gained independence in 1965, only to be devastated by the rule of General Idi Amin, who had over 300,000 Ugandans slaughtered in just eight years. After Amin was deposed, the country devolved into a seven-year civil war, which ended in 1986, just as AIDS arrived to decimate the country once more.

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Thirty years later we see the Uganda few know, the Uganda that lives at night and don’t give a fuck. After so much trauma what remains is the search for freedom on personal terms. In Fuck it, Sibiloni shows us the bad and the ugly, yet always maintains a proper sense of respect for his subjects. The photographs celebrate, rather than shame, but they do not romanticize, heroicize, or pretend to be allegories to human experience. They are simply pure sensation.

As Cecil writes, “he rich, pungent variety of images in this book will elicit a range of reactions: pity, disgust, uncertainty, titillation—natural responses to such beautiful horrors…. This is the noir: the fallen angels of debauchery and desperation. This is the future: brazen young things with money to burn—all poolside parties and bleach-blonde hair. This is the past: askaris with arrows, women with burdens, military junta in open jeeps. This is contradiction: a city of Puritan alcoholics, prostitutes giving love for free, perverted aid workers, developing that arse. This is a disgrace: a security guard on $1/day, a corrupt ruling class passing laws on morality, a white man who’s pissed his pants.”

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All photographs © Michele Sibiloni

Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.