Thursday, Jan. 27
Tonight I meet Ghislain, a young guide working with World Wildlife Fund in Plaine (Gamba), Gabon, to take tourists to Loango National Park. We worked out an arrangement through a mutual friend, Sophie, and Ghislain will be my guide for a walk through Plaine during the golden hours of the evening. This will be from 5pm to 7pm, when the light softens, warming briefly before passing into twilight.
This is my introduction to Plaine, the largest town, or maybe settlement would be more descriptive, in the Gamba region. Most of Plaine is less than forty years old, though remnants of the original village can still be found near where the river meets the N’dogo lagoon. 3000 people call this home, many of them abandoning surrounding villages to resettle in the shadow of the Shell empire.
I am the only white person walking in this golden light, and I feel the stares of countless children, their play stops as I walk by. “Bonsoir”. This and a smile brings two brothers close, the older, perhaps five, reaches to shake my hand. I feel a tug on a finger from behind, and turn to see little brother, possibly three, casting a shy, furtive glance, hoping for a handshake. We pass through ramshackle tin rippling abodes of no discernable plan. A family of empty shoes grace a threshold, towels on a sill, chickens in the scratch, and murmurs of easy conversations flow across our path. Children carry pails of water, mothers with bundles of leaf-wrapped manioc, the smell of smoke and fish. I feel blessed to see this community and though I make a few pictures, I leave many more to linger in my memory. I find it inappropriate to pass too quickly from the comfort of observation to force a disturbance of documentation. The privilege of good rapport will require more time.