It is dawn and fisherman have pulled their boats up on a spit of beach loaded down with tiny silver fish. Women go from boat to boat inspecting, haggling and then putting their purchases in buckets. They then walk up to the rocks above and start spreading the fish out to dry.
Wow. I’m really here, I think to myself. I’m standing at the edge of Lake Victoria, watching Tanzanian men and women go about their daily work. Lake Victoria is enormous, more than 26,000 square miles, but here at this little bay it feels comfortably small and familiar. I’ve seen other fishing communities in Alaska, Oregon, France, and Japan. There is a common rhythm, boats rocking at the shore, the smell of fish, the rise and fall of conversation, the cadence of people who know what they need to do and know how to do it.
Women now bend over with straw brooms to brush the fish first into neat rows, then into a grid one foot width apart. One woman moves through her grid bent at the waist, a white bucket in one hand the other hand moving through the fish. I gesture with my camera and she nods her consent. I take a few photos, then intrigued, crouch at the end of her row to see what she is doing. Ah, there are snails and small shells and other debris among the fish. I put my camera aside and follow her movements, picking anything that isn’t fish out and dropping it in her bucket. We move like this for a several minutes, this quiet tempo of two women working side by side, the world collapsed to the slick feel of the fish, the click of snails hitting the bucket. I see a small smile on her face and as we get to the end of the row I stand. Asante, we both nod. Asante. – Loretta Williams