Undeterred by impairment: The story of a deaf photographer who lives his dreams

Juma Ramadhani, a deaf photographer, is interviewed by Rachel Chibwete, a journalist from The Citizen, at Nyerere Square in Dodoma City. PHOTO | THE CITIZEN CORRESPONDENT

What you need to know:

  • In the nearly 25 years that Mr Ramadhani has been working as a photographer, he has managed to build a house, an achievement he described as a great milestone for him because he no longer has to pay rent.

Dodoma. Juma Ramadhani, 50, is deaf, but his disability never prevented him from fulfilling his childhood dream of becoming a photographer.

The resident of Dodoma works as a photographer in the popular Nyerere Square recreation area in Dodoma City, which is the capital of Tanzania.

Speaking with the help of a sign language interpreter, Adrian Chiyenje, Mr Ramadhani, who is married with one child, said he has been a photographer since 1999 when attending Kigwe School for the Deaf in Bahi District, Dodoma Region.

“Taking pictures has been my hobby since childhood,” he said on Saturday, March 30, in an interview.

“When I was studying at Kigwe, I used to engage in small businesses like selling peanuts at school, through which I managed to save money to buy a small camera for taking pictures during school events,” he said.

After finishing school, Mr Ramadhani realised that Nyerere Square was a prime area to do his photography business.

After the introduction of digital cameras, Mr Ramadhani sold his old device, which used film, to buy new equipment, which he uses today.


Narrating how he met his wife, who is also deaf, Ramadhani says they both used to live in the same neighbourhood.

“I used to pass near my wife's house on my way to work, where we would greet each other and eventually got to know each other better,” he said.

Sometimes he would cook food and invite her to his house, where they would eat together. “We were close before we got married, and when I proposed to her, she agreed because we already loved each other," he said.


In the nearly 25 years that Mr Ramadhani has been working as a photographer, he has managed to build a house, an achievement he described as a great milestone for him because he no longer has to pay rent.

"Building a house is my biggest achievement. I don't have the pressure of being evicted by the landlord and my family is settled," he said.

As a father and the head of a family, Mr Ramadhani fulfills all his family responsibilities through his photography job.

Other achievements include getting regular and new clients whom he serves using sign language through which everyone, even those who are not deaf, can understand him.

"My clients understand me well. When they need passport-size photos or photos for other events, we usually communicate in sign language, and because they already know the prices, it’s easy to do business with them, and they usually get satisfied. They like my service," said Mr Ramadhani.

Mr Ramadhani said he also has good relations with fellow photographers, as they have never discriminated against him. He says people with disabilities should never give up. He advises them to engage themselves in jobs that they can do better at instead of just sitting around and begging on the streets.

He said that in terms of his photography business, it depends on the season. There are times when he takes one picture the whole day.

"The festive season is my harvesting time because, in one day, I could make up to Sh500,000... We enjoy the holiday season because there are a lot of people, and they all want to take souvenir photos here at Nyerere Square," said Mr Ramadhani.

Mr Ramadhani calls upon well-wishers to help him get a better camera and other equipment that will improve his work, as there is a lot of competition in the market and the camera he uses does not have a good capacity.

He also urges the government to consider groups of people with disabilities in terms of loans so that they can improve their businesses, as many are now engaged in various businesses but do not have enough capital.

He also calls on parents with children with disabilities to give them an education like his parents did, thus allowing him to be self-reliant instead of dependent.