Dar Foto Festival giving Tanzanian photographers a unique stage

From left to right: Founder of CityLab Dar es Salaam, Nathalie Jean-Baptiste; the Executive Secretary of the National Arts Council (BASATA), Kedmon Mapana; Andrew Munuwa, Founder of Dar Foto Festival; and Lilian Mushi, Managing Director of Nafasi Art Space. PHOTO | COURTESY

What you need to know:

  • Launched in 2023, the festival has been a gateway for Tanzania’s photography community to showcase their talents, enabling a simple idea to evolve into an annual photography extravaganza.

Photography isn't just about family portraits and weekend snapshots; it’s a powerful medium that can foster empathy, spark conversations, amplify marginalised voices, spotlight social issues, and even drive societal change.

In Tanzania, the Dar Foto Festival is dedicated to harnessing this unique power.

Launched in 2023, the festival has been a gateway for Tanzania’s photography community to showcase their talents, enabling a simple idea to evolve into an annual photography extravaganza.

This festival has been instrumental in recognising unheard-of talent, providing a platform for exhibitors to share stories of Tanzania from a perspective not seen before.

Founded by Tanzanian photographer Andrew Munuwa and Valentino Rudloff from Germany, the festival has blossomed into the country's premier photography event.

The second edition of Dar Foto Festival, held from February 2 to March 8, 2024 at the historic Old Boma building in Posta, Dar es Salaam, drew over 800 visitors from near and far.

Running under the theme "People, Economy, Change," the festival delved into Tanzania's socio-economic narrative through stunning visuals.

The 2024 festival’s opening day was star-studded, with influential figures like Dr Nathalie Jean-Baptiste, Founder of CityLab Dar es Salaam, and Lilian Mushi, Managing Director of Nafasi Art Space, present to show their support.

A total of 12 Tanzanian artists participated in showcasing their photos including Gertrude Alex with her exhibit titled ‘Mama Mishe,’ which explored the struggles of women in the informal economy; and Daniel Msirikale's ‘Shoreside Stories,’ which highlighted Lake Victoria's significance to local communities.

Up and coming artists such as Natalia Msungu, Rahma Said, Benjamin Asheri, Bensin Simon and Marcus Davie also had an opportunity to showcase their work.

Emerging photographers from an open call and mentorship program also had their chance to shine.

Various activities such as photograph walks through Dar es Salaam, panel discussions with Tanzanian artistes and photography mentorship were designed to connect, foster dialogue and enhance photography skills.

The Beat spoke with Jumanne Khamis, a mobile photographer in Dar es Salaam, and he shared that the festival has been a game changer for many photographers.

“This festival has come at the perfect time for us as photographers to showcase our abilities to other nations and even get the opportunity to become more well-known,” he explains.

On the same note, Khanifa Abdallah, an up and coming street photographer, shares the important of the festival when it comes to exhibition.

“It’s very rare to find an exhibition specifically organised for photographers; often it involves other artists, making it difficult to showcase your photography skills. But through festivals like this, it will greatly help in the growth of the photography profession,” she shares.

Narrating the experience of the festival since launching in 2023, Andrew shared that that the second edition of the festival exceed his expectations.

"The results we achieved with Dar Foto Festival 2024 were beyond our initial expectations. This year’s festival not only united artists and art enthusiasts around photography but also fostered a supportive community,” said Mr Andrew.

Andrew further reminisces about his early days of capturing the essence of places, preserving their evolution for future generations.

"I started snapping photos at Morocco Bus Stand around 2016. The vibe then was so different from what you see in 2024. Our exhibition might be contemporary, but when you interact with permanent exhibitions at Old Boma, you witness the profound changes and the role people play in them," he says.

On the other hand, co-founder of the festival, Valentin Rudloff shares how the two aim to elevate the festival to international acclaim.

"There are so many untold stories here. Tanzania has a vibrant community of photographers who deserve a platform,” he elaborates.

In a conversation with Executive Secretary of the National Arts Council (BASATA), Mr Kedmon Mapana shared that the festival is as an important event as any other in the country.

“The festival further strengthens the community of Tanzanian photographers, encouraging them to share important stories from our country to a local and international audience. BASATA is keen to support the Dar Foto Festival in the coming years,” says Mr Mapana.

Riding high on its success, the festival is now headed to Stone Town, Zanzibar, with an exhibition schedule to take place at the Emerson Art Gallery from June 21 to July 21, 2024.

Similar excitement for the event also runs high in Stone Town as many in Zanzibar are looking forward to the unique photography walks, artists’ dialogues and mentorships.

The festival aims to join the ranks of Africa's most prestigious photography festivals, like Bamako Encounters in Mali, Lagos Photo Festival in Nigeria, and Africa Foto Fair in Ivory Coast.

Looking ahead, the Dar Foto Festival has grand ambitions for 2025.

"We have big plans," says Munuwa. "Imagine multiple exhibitions across Dar es Salaam and extending into Zanzibar. We want to support local photographers all year round and make photography accessible to everyone."

As the Dar Foto Festival continues to grow, it stands as a beacon of artistic expression and community building, showcasing the incredible power of photography to inspire, educate, and connect.