I was told that on a clear day, Mount Kilimanjaro dominates the horizon. The perfect angle would provide a jaw-dropping view of the a lone peak amid the sprawling savanna, but today was not that day.
I looked up, camera-ready, at a blank canvas on the distant horizon. Beneath heavily clouded skies, market vendors carted produce over jagged roads as salesmen pitched a variety of retail products amid jerking automobiles and weaving mopeds.
If the mountain indeed stands paramount over this energetic scene, it lies hidden beneath the regional rainfall cloud cover.
Soon after, I entered the nearby Maranatha Mission School where my father and his International Medical Outreach team busily distributed vitamin and deworming tablets to the primary school students. With a camera in hand, I documented the grounds: an imperfectly-constructed bookshelf creaked under the weight of an incomplete and outdated set of encyclopedias; tattered calendars of years past and rudimentary mathematical tables covered cracks in the dilapidated walls; five students crowded around a splintered mahogany desk, sharing a single copy of an English-language textbook and laughing at the image on the front cover. They had nothing in common with the blonde hair, blue eyes, pale complexions portrayed.
As I photographed a particular teacher giving each student medicine, I recognized a vision for Africa that depended little on the iconic image of Kilimanjaro majestically displayed in in-flight magazines. I had seen enough wildlife specials and National Geographic cover photographs to expect a tremendous mountain backdrop to a colorful African market scene – Kilimanjaro standing triumphant and constant over the flora and fauna of the African wilderness.
But American sensibilities for iconic landscapes do not always correlate with the realities of African life. Africans hope for health and education, yet a storm cloud obstructs both the picturesque and their pursuit for development all the same. Parasites and malnutrition supplement the difficulty of grasping literature and mathematical concepts. As medical outreach and educational reforms attempt to alleviate the struggle for the younger generation, the clouds on Kilimanjaro shift with the changing of the seasons.
– By Austin Price