Italian photographer Michele Sibiloni documents the wildest nights of the Ugandan capital in his book, Fuck it!
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Africa?
Poverty, misery, dictatorships and persecution. Smiling children and “all inclusive” safaris. Heat and scarcity. Dust and sand. Poaching, and women with beaded necklaces of a thousand colours. Illiteracy, AIDS, genital mutilation, witchdoctors and mud huts in the middle of nowhere. War, conflict, blood diamonds and ivory tusks.
Clichés fed by films and the media. Stereotypical images that shatter into a thousand pieces when you reach Kampala, Uganda’s capital.
Although Uganda is known for its restrictive laws on homosexuality, pornography and drugs, its capital is an oasis of madness amidst all the repression, especially at night.
Kampala is known both inside and outside of Africa for its wild parties – nights in which, despite living in such an oppressive society, everyone does whatever they want.
And Italian photographer Michele Sibiloni knows a lot about these endless parties.
Sibiloni moved to Uganda six years ago, with the intention of portraying aspects of daily life in the country. He documented important events in the Great Lakes Region in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, but felt that something was missing.
And that “something” was going out with his camera and documenting the wild party nights in Kampala.
Michele went out at night and discovered that there were people who were unwilling to give up their own nights of socialising and inebriation. In the streets, bars and houses of Kampala caretakers, friends, sex workers, drug addicts, drunks, ex-pats and scroungers all mix with one another.
The photographer explored all the streets and neighbourhoods of the city. ‘I went to every kind of place, from house parties with ex-pats to bars and clubs in Kabalagala – sort of Kampala’s red light district. There are bars and clubs there, people cooking in the streets, small hotels where people would take their girls to have sex’, Michele explained in an interview with VICE.
‘In a few of those bars you’d find middle-aged white men looking for young girls. There were smaller, more local bars too, in areas that would be considered more like slums or ghettos. By now it feels as though I’ve been to every part of Kampala—maybe not every bar, but every part of town,’ he explained.
What Michele liked most about Kampala was the heterogeneous nature that reigned in the bars. All manner of people: rich and poor. Prostitutes share tables with top executives; tourists dance with young Rastafarians. Two older women have a drink and look on while a couple twerks.
‘When I was moving around, I found that at night there was a sort of democracy where social classes didn’t matter that much anymore, and people were mixing and using each other in different ways’, recalls the photographer.
All of these photos of madness have been compiled in his book, Fuck it!, a documentary project that the theatre producer David Cecil sums up superbly in the prologue.
‘All the animals come out at night… Broken eggs, bruised legs, torn skirts, laughing lads, crested cranes, packs of dogs, a wide-eyed man with a gun. The stories told by these grimy vignettes are at once a cartoon strip and an archive of the ephemeral, an African symphony and a third-world catastrophe, a naughty grope and a guilty giggle.’
Because the animals come out at night… and they want to have a good time.