Only in Burundi



2 minutes reading

"In Burundi all doors remained closed for the Dutch researcher Eva Smallegange. Even during an armed robbery she is on her own. Then she befriends Koky. Koky knows everybody, from former child soldiers to the president. Suddenly Eva, together with photographer Anais López, finds herself at the heart of Burundian society".

For the past two years, Amsterdam-based photographer Anais López and writer Eva Smallegange worked together on the creation of Only In Burundi, a stunning book that traces Burundian life across different strata of society and, only five years after the ending of the civil war, paints an upbeat and colourful picture of the country. Composed of a beautiful combination of expressive documentary photography, small personal stories and playful infographics, the book introduces us to the daily lives of Koky and his friends.

Koky serves as guide for Smallegange and López. Not only does he open the doors of his home to them, he takes the two on a revealing journey through Burundi and in his very own way introduces them to the country, its culture and its people. Koky easily interacts with people from all walks of life and also the friends he presents to us are a motley crew: From the manioc grinder whose face is covered in white dust to the popular Archbishop Simon, from the village elders to Princess Rosa who used to be engaged to Koky's brother, from the traditional healer Dominique to stone cutter Aster who lived in the jungle as a child soldier.

Their stories tell of the suffering during the civil war and of the daily struggle to make ends meet, but they are stories infused with hope and optimism as the Burundians are determined to believe that "if you break your leg you have to learn how to walk again". We quickly learn that, in Burundi, without the right connections you are nothing and will get nowhere. Through small sketches, graphic designer Linda Braber traces the contacts and social investments between the different people, depicting their interrelations in units such as a bottle of Fanta, 1000 phone credits, one hour of praying, chatting or dancing.

Like a loose puzzle, the stories and connections unfold, to be traced back on a social map printed on the inside of the dust cover. López's intimate portraits of the people, their homes or workplaces, radiate a strong sense for composition and a keen eye for detail. Together with Smallegange's personal stories, the images give the subjects a powerful voice and offer an incredibly true-to-life insight into the diversity of Burundian society, making Only In Burundi a remarkable research project and an exceptionally rich book.