In this photo I captured Salha, who is a six-year old, nursery school student, deep in concentration with a People Style Watch. Salha enjoyed searching for pictures of shiny dresses and feather headbands.
During my two years of service in Kwa Mtoro, Kondoa, Tanzania I was lucky to pass my time with my best-friend/sister, Asmini, who doubled as the village "fundi" (seamstress). I spent just about every afternoon in Asmini's tiny shop watching her sew on her foot-peddle machine, drawing dress pattens, brainstorming new designs, researching fashion ideas and playing with the neighbor children. My mother (in America) would send the latest fashion magazines, like People Style Watch, Marie Claire, etc, and I would pass them on to Asmini, who would then create for me custom-made clothing with the material of my (and sometimes her) choosing.
Browsing the magazines together would generate plenty of opportunities to answer questions about American culture and to work on my Kiswahili, as I was often translating articles and advertisements. The usual suspects, Hamida, Kamili, Leso, Shemsa and Salha, would gawk over pictures of cheeseburgers and pasta dishes, be amazed by the models' long, shiny hair (all the models of course looked just like me and were my sisters) and rub themselves down with fold-out, scented perfume ads.
We spent many evenings re-creating the pictures from those magazines; cooking bean-burgers with homemade buns to substitute cheeseburgers, setting my hair in rollers and then teasing it out, and producing mini-fashion shows demonstrating the variety of ways to wear kangas/kitenges, Tanzania's staple fashion item. The cat-walk soundtrack was always a pop culture mix of Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Rihanna and Shakira, blasting from my iPod and speakers with everyone shaking it and singing out loud, whether they knew the words or not.