From Dusk Till Dawn: Ugandan Nightlife in Michele Sibiloni’s Project
Italian photographer, born in Parma. Lives and works in eastern Africa. Published his work in The New York Times, The British Journal of Photography, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Vogue, and many other media outlets. Participated in exhibitions in Italy, Spain, France, Norway, and the Netherlands.
The project Fuck It is my attempt to study the nightlife of Kampala, the capital of Uganda. I wanted to free myself from my work as a photojournalist which I have been doing for many years. I wanted to show something that impressed me when I moved to Uganda, and I wanted to live the entire experience.
The name of the project comes from the poorly made tattoo on the leg of a girl whom I photographed. It also describes the way that people in Uganda have fun when they got out at night: just say “fuck it” and leave all their responsibilities and problems behind.
Nighttime has always been important to me since I was a teenager, I had my best adventures at night. If you are this kind of person, Kampala could keep you awake at night for years. On one night, you can meet people of every sort out in the streets: those who work at night and who only have fun, artists, homeless, drunks, night girls. Kampala never sleeps.
It is wrong to capture nightlife and not experience it. On the other hand, getting hammered is not a good way to go either.
Although people still think of me as a foreigner, shooting has never landed me in a dangerous situation. Sometimes I had to explain what I was photographing and why, and sometimes I just did not pay attention to people getting mad.
Kampala nightlife does not follow any rules. There are all kinds of bars and clubs here — from cheap restos to glamorous expensive places.
It all depends on how much money you have. The main thing that unites the local lovers of fun is alcohol. People in Uganda drink a lot, it is part of their culture. According to some statistics, it has one of the highest levels of alcohol consumption in Africa.
Dancing is the the second best pastime at night after drinking. Ugandan society is conservative and religious, but the way people dance is very physical and sexual. At night there are no limits or taboo, and people indulge themselves under the sounds of Afrobeat, dancehall, Rihanna, and Justin Bieber.
I moved to Uganda at the end of 2010 because at the time the region was quite dynamic: South Sudan was heading for independence, Uganda which had been under the same president for 25 years was preparing for elections, there was the ever-troubled Eastern DRC, Kenya and Rwanda. I currently continue to do report photography for international media outlets while working on my personal projects.
There is no right or wrong when shooting nightlife. I think every photographer just documents what they see. I don’t ask for permission, I just shoot.
Any long term project has to be a part of your everyday life, you have to be patient and determined, to go out as much as you can. You need to be obsessed with a certain thing that you follow and with your own project.
I choose a small camera because they are more handy, in many clubs they don’t allow you to enter with a camera, so if is small you can hide it. When you’re shooting on film, no one can ask you to delete a photo.