Hi there, thank you for dropping in at the Africa far and wide blog!
My name is Lianne Ashton and I am the author, photographer and soon to be ‘host’ of a brand new podcast. This blog has been really close to my heart in that it’s been the vehicle for me to explore and discover my ‘home’ Africa and also to dig into ‘life!’ It’s been a vehicle for me to explore my own ‘journey,’ as well as to learn about other people’s way of life and experiences and all the gritty, beautiful, raw stuff that comes with living in Africa! For the most part, Africa far and wide is an adventure, one that is not afraid to take the bumpy, unpaved road to a destination not yet known! Sometimes it is light, sometimes it’s raw and heartbreaking, sometimes it’s a heap of fun – but it is always real!
I would love for you to join me on this journey! I have no idea where it might go, but I do know that it will be an experience and an adventure! HIT THE FOLLOW BUTTON TO HOP ON – this vehicle is about to leave!
About the Africa far and wide blog; where it started, where it’s been and where it is now.
The life of this blog seems to roll in chapters, with every new African country that we’ve moved to, being a new chapter. This is the 3rd time I’m rewriting my About page, coinciding with our move back to my home country, South Africa.
Our move back to South Africa in 2016 has certainly earned it’s new About page, being so completely different to the previous years. This photographic blog started a number of years ago when my husband and I lived in central Mozambique. But our story started in Zimbabwe a few years before.
I got married and moved to Zimbabwe – a country in the throes of hyperinflation and ruled by a dictator. There I began to write, documenting my experience of living in a country where every single resident was a ‘trillionaire,’ only a trillion dollars could hardly buy you a box of matches.
We’d wait for hours in queues to buy a loaf of bread, some cooking oil or a bag of sugar with a tog bag full up of Zimbabwean dollars. We’d pay our bills with fuel, we cooked on fire most nights and we’d attempt to make a living by farming paprika. Zimbabwe was where I learned that ‘life’ is not obliged to be fair, or to make sense. I learned about ‘power,’ and ‘corruption.’ I had to toughen up and I had to be careful of what I say. It’s where I got given my first lesson in ‘making a plan’ and where I learned that sometimes having a good sense of humour is the only way through a difficult time. In Zimbabwe, laughter is actual medicine.
2 years later, we were given an opportunity to farm sugarcane in central Mozambique for a South African sugar company. We lived in Mozambique for 8 years. This is when I started the Africa far and wide blog. I wanted to do something meaningful and creative with my time and importantly, capture and share with you the ‘experience’ of Mozambique.
From 1964 to 1992, Mozambique had back to back wars, starting with the Mozambican war of Independence followed by the Civil War in which over a million people lost their lives. It was a guerrilla war and it was brutal with long lasting repercussions that still linger on today.
During my time in Mozambique I discovered the true meaning of ‘resilience’ in its people. Though there is much poverty, their strength, will to survive and the deep wisdom that comes with loss, shows up in their every day life, their commitment to family and their upbeat tenacity when confronted with a set back. I also noticed the very thin line that separates life and death here, how death comes quickly and how it is accepted.
I fell in love with Mozambique. Bit by bit, I began to look deeper and ask more questions. With my camera in hand, I took notice of the everyday life, the struggles, the celebrations, the disputes and the culture. I observed ‘life’ nothing like mine.
8 years later, we moved to Nchalo – another sugarcane estate on the Southern tip of Malawi. We lived here as expats for a blissful 2 years – making new friends, discovering the ‘lake of stars,’ and exploring this landlocked, highly populated but beautiful country. It was here that I got to learn about ‘deforestation’ and its devastating consequences, fueling the vicious cycle of poverty. Our time in Malawi was all about adventure and exploring a tropical paradise – the fragile paradise that still remains! For the most part, Malawi felt like a very long holiday and it made the next move that much harder!
I loved our expat life; a life of ‘permanent’ travel, of meeting people from all walks of life and continually discovering new things. Little did we know, a completely new way of life would be calling sooner than we had anticipated. We were offered a good opportunity in South Africa that would mean we’d return to my ‘home’ and live on the farm that I grew up on in KwaZulu-Natal.
“The years teach much the days never know.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Leaving behind a way of life that I loved was difficult. It’s been like mending a broken heart. It takes time to accept what is gone and time to see what is in front of you or what can be.
And so Chapter 3 of this blog begins; the start of a professional photography career and rediscovering South Africa – a land of opportunity, complexity, turmoil and hope. My time in South Africa has been a big adjustment; from being part of a fluid, diverse international community to being part of a close-knit generational farming community. I’ve struggled. I’ve not known where I fit or how I can continue with a life immersed in adventure, discovery, diversity and one that is expansive.
It’s coming up to 5 years since we moved to South Africa. I am absolutely thrilled to tell you that I have a grand plan that has already started! It encapsulates everything that I have hoped for. It’s the start of a BIG, wonderful, terrifying journey and it knows no borders! It’s immersed in diversity, it requires me to be completely true to myself, brave and vulnerable and it will be one heck of an adventure! I’m going to create the life I want, irrespective of where I live. Please do join me on this next big-ass chapter!
The journey starts here.