2020 has been an interesting year, viruses shutting down nations, outrage at inequality in society and a closer look on our history. As an English speaking nation you'd be forgiven in not knowing an a-lot about Mozambique. I admit I did not know much, but was intrigued as I spoke to a young lady called Jennifer Castelo.
Key facts on Mozambique
1) Ancient artefacts show that the ancestors of the Mozambique people were hunters and one of the first recorded to consume cereals in the human race. It is believed that the Bantu people were the first to live in this part of the world.
2) It was formerly known as the land Sofa noted by the Arabs in 947AD. They were known throughout the Middle East as a place rich in gold. It later became known for the trade of Ivory until the Portuguese made fortunes trading slaves.
3) Mozambique was forcibly colonised by Portugal as one of the many European invaders who over-ruled the inhabitants and named the country Portuguese East Africa. It was a strategic port that benefited their various trades. Portugal entered the country in order to get wealth and enticed companies to help fund this quest by providing them with native slaves. For this reason prior to World War One half of the country was under Lisbon's administration and the other by the companies such as the Mozambique company founded in 1891.
4) Due to various insurrections in the Portuguese Empire, the African colonies were too expensive to sustain. For decades to come Mozambique becomes a country ruled by one party until it becomes the first country to be admitted into the British commonwealth in 1995 (who had not been colonised by Britain).
5) Due to mass migration of Portuguese people to the region there is still a strong social and cultural tie to Portugal. This is something that is strong evident in the music, the food and the language still present to this day.
Experience as a creative of colour
Jennifer is a descendant from a caucasian Portuguese mother and a black Mozambique father. A former child model and dancer, who is now acting, Jennifer has always been in the creative industry.
As a shorter lady, in an industry that can often only be interested in a one size, an unrealistic body her modelling ended when she went through adolescence and became a female. As a person with curves, Jennifer recalled being told she did not fit the quota because her hips were too wide and her bottom was too big. No matter how she was taught to conceal it, she could never hide who she truly is. Comments like these were also what eventually contributed to her leaving her ballet classes.
Jennifer recalls having a tough time mentally because she would ask her body developed before others which was confusing at the time. This lead to her asking "Why is my body growing?" "Why are others not growing?" Jennifer has naturally more hair around her body, which lead to bullying at school. Fortunately she had a loving father who was able to speak life into her, he taught her that she is beautiful and that she needs to "appreciate what you have". From this point onwards she began to accept who she was and embrace the body she was blessed with.
Jennifer's three wishes when visiting Mozambique in 2021
After the lockdown is over Jennifer would love to visit Mozambique which she and her father have not been for her entire lifetime. When I asked her what she would like to do when she visits the country she told me the following;
1) To visit her roots in Maputo and Beira in the country of Mozambique. This is to connect with her father's native land. In particular she would love to view the Suburbs of Mozambique to see how regular people live their lives.
2) To learn the language spoken by the people especially Cape Verdean Creole.
3) Meet the family she had never met.
Personally I am of the opinion that having your feet touch the soil from where your family is from for the first time is quite a spiritual moment. By this I mean there is a great connection you feel in your inner being. You feel connected to your family history, your culture just like looking at old photos of your relatives before you were born.
I have not touched on the Portuguese connection as much as it is infused in her Mozambique connection. This is not because it is not important to her, but simply because she has been many times and is familiar with the culture, what places to go and even what places I would have loved to visit on my trips there.
Jennifer has not given up on her creativity. She is looking either to get into acting or music as the arts is still her passion. She is happy that more recently she has been getting more auditions which is a sign her appearance is more accepted in an industry that often wants a certain look. She is also studying at University media and marketing and is focused on achieving academically.
Shooting with Blaqpix Photography
To Jennifer's pleasure, it was refreshing and uplifting to shoot with me as I appreciated her for who she is, even in areas others had previously rejected. As a creative I enjoy shooting people of all shapes and sizes. I see beauty passed the standards in media and fashion.
We shot in two different locations, the home studio in Croydon and a local common. The images ranged from conventional portraiture, candid, fashion and touched on fine art. We embraced her curves in the shoot. We demonstrated that you don't need to be skinny and tall in order to look good in front of a camera.
Before the shoot I was warned, "I take a while to warm up" (meaning it will take a while until she is comfortable with her images being captured). This is quite normal, especially when with a person you have never met before. My experience working with people has taught me how to put people at ease and to get the best out of people who may not see themselves as "photogenic". I feel Jennifer smashed it and did really well.
Jennifer has promised to feedback to me how her trip to Mozambique goes, hopefully she will get what she wants and more. I have learned from Jennifer valuable lessons in life, one day I hope to be a father and my words will one day have the ability to speak life into my children. I have also learned to be persistent and to not allow destructive words to hold me back.
Shooting with me
Information on my photography can be found on the main website www.blaqpix.com where you can contact me via the web form.