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Travel

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Philately

Palm wine collectors

Namibian-born photographer Kyle Weeks considers how his most recent work – documenting the palm wine collectors of the Kunene River – confronts the challenging legacy of African photography.

The ancient cultural practice of tapping Makalani palms has been banned by the Namibian government, but the practice is continued by collectors determined to maintain a tradition that promotes conservation on a cultural level.

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This series was produced during two two-week trips along the Kunene River in Namibia, where I grew up. At the time the area was suffering a major drought and many of the Himba people had moved to the river’s edge for water and the nourishing qualities of Otusu, the local palm wine.

Travelling downstream, I watched as the palms were being tapped by the Himba men – a practice banned by the Namibian government – and decided to produce a series of portraits of the collectors. By photographing each one in a neutral way, standardising the framing of ...

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