“Photography is the Best Profession in the World”

And those were the words from Ricardo Rangel (Mozambique) that struck me the most.

The opening of the 5th bi-annual Chobi Mela on 30th January 2009 was indeed an event to be remembered. As the curtains raised to commence the 3-week long series of expositions at 11 venues across the city, almost hundreds of visitors packed at the National Museum auditorium at the evening of the opening to celebrate a moment like no other. None would have been as wonderful an inaugural exhibition than that from the Nelson Mandela Foundation captioned “A Long Walk to Freedom: The Life and History of Nelson Mandela”.

But moving back to the ceremony itself, one would wonder what could have been so thrilling about speeches from photo maestros, activists, humanitarians and people from different places in the world. Well, for starters, I actually listened. Their words were sincere, honest, unadulterated.   They urged the listeners to be moved, to be felt, to be remembered later.

To react.

“Freedom” is not just another word one can play with. Its strength lies in its very articulation, a feeling that consumes us of who we are. Each one of us is a solider of freedom – in our worlds, in our cities, in our minds. Freedom is not only about wars, barb wires and Kalashnikovs; but rather a belief that encompasses our personae. We are in search of it wherever we go.

In whoever we become.

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But the magic here lies in how photographers from different walks of life have portrayed freedom. It tells us how we all don’t see things the same way, how our definitions are undefined, how two people can feel the same way about the same things. As photographers, it is a responsibility with impact that can show us how others mark their freedom, how they perceive a word we loosely juggle at our fingertips.

Maybe that’s why Ricardo Rangel, the Lifetime Achievement Award winner of this year’s festival so aptly, so contently phrased:
“Photography is the best profession in the world”.

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