Anna Boyiazis

Zanzibar. An island east of the African continent, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania. 98 percent Muslim. Socially dominated by upholders of the Quran. Nowhere do more people die of drowning than in Africa. Many because they cannot swim. One should be allowed to learn it. But women in Zanzibar are banned from learning how to swim. And now they do it anyway. They dare to do it, they risk a double dare. The project is called ‘Panje’. And it is contagious. It encourages more and more girls and young women to take themselves more seriously than the verdict of old bearded men. US photojournalist Anna Bouyiazis has created a visual monument of this transgression and self-assertion: a little story that stands for something really big, for women’s emancipation. Far from our uptight debates about burkini bans in swimming pools, this is a declaration of love for women who make their peace with their desire for freedom of movement, for autonomy. Boyiazis shows pure survival spirit, as joyful as it is serious. And she does it, by the way, in a rare aesthetic and photographic perfection. At the periphery of the world, Boyiazis has made a discovery. She has visualized something that we would never know about, despite media oversupply. She has reminded us of beautiful stories in precisely those places where we don’t normally look. And in doing so she may have made even us more optimistic. (Text by Peter-Matthias Gaede)