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About

What I Do

I’m a social documentary photographer and visual communicator who uses photography, video, graphic design, and website development to document, create, and share stories.

I love words too. In poetic form, which I write about on this website. In essay form, which you can find here, and in the way I can use them to make up fictional stories.

Zimbabwe Fashion Awards 2014
Zimbabwe Fashion Week Launch Cocktail 2014
Fiercely Stylish Nails | FungaiFoto

My journey into pictures

When I was 12 years old, an aunt visited our home in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (and no, she didn’t have nails like the ones pictured here). She had just bought a new camera and as she showed it to us, I marveled at all the things she said it could do.

She noticed my keen interest, reached into her handbag, and pulled out a smaller device. “There,” she said, “this is my old camera. “You can have it.”

I was elated! It was a Prinz 110 which took a 24 exposure cartridge so I had to save up to buy film and had to think about every photo before I took it; when you have 24 exposures, you can’t waste a frame.

My journey into photography had begun.

Highlights

My camera has opened up many doors for me. Just picking it up and starting to snap away has made so many things possible. Here are some of the highlights from this journey.

Mount Pleasant Drive, Harare - University of Zimbabwe

1996 | Vision Magazine

As a student at the University of Zimbabwe, I signed up for a student publication called Vision Magazine. I became a writer and photographer for the publication and then its editor. I photographed student demonstrations, concerts, fashion shows, and policemen beating students up.

I played with the new digital camera a lot on campus

2000 | 1st Digital Camera

Fr. Nigel Johnson, the priest who ran Vision Magazine, bought a Fujifilm digital camera for us to use. It was amazing suddenly being able to take as many photos as I wanted. No reels of film. No paying for photo development. Just click and download…

IYASA performs at Zimbabwe Music Awards, 2004

2004 | Itsbho

In November 2004, Tapiwa Mungate finished building a PHPNuke site for Venekera Works. It was an arts and culture site called Itsbho.com. I went out and started photographing artists and events for it and my journey into arts journalism began in earnest.

A man works a printing press at Celsys Print | FungaiFoto

2007 | Celsys Limited

Celsys Limited acquired Venekera Works in the first quarter of 2007. We became part of their marketing division. The idea was to incorporate website design and online marketing into the services that Celsys offered, which included printing, cellphone sales, and renting ATMs out to banks.

Tafadzwa Muzondo and John Pfumojena at HIFA 2008

2008 | Zimbo Jam

In 2008, I built Zimbo Jam using Joomla! and then set off again to photograph artists, events and to put it all online. Zimbo has won four National Arts Merit Awards for online arts journalism and opened many doors for the team members I worked with, and for me.

Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard 2015

2015 | Journalism Fellow

I was at a conference in Mutare, Zimbabwe when I received the phone call that I had been accepted for the Nieman Journalism Fellowship and the Berkman-Klein Fellowship for Journalism innovation at Harvard based on the work I had done documenting arts and culture in Zimbabwe. The joy!

Carpenters at work in the Grogan area of Machakos

2016 | Machakos & Maps

While I was on the fellowship, my wife got a job with an organization in Kenya. Initially the plan was not to move there, but one thing led to another and we spent two years in Machakos. I did some volunteer photography for her organization, and started doing a lot of photography for Google Local Guides and a travel blog she and I started.

Walk away in the mist - Northampton MA | FungaiFoto

2018 | Lost

In 2018 we moved to the US. I felt a bit artistically and professionally lost. I had written a novel while in Machakos, and was shopping that around, but I wasn’t sure what I would do next. What would my focus be? And then I found myself in a community full of writers, and art…

Jesmyn Ward in conversation with Jennifer Acker at Amherst College Litfest 2020 | FungaiFoto

2020 |Valley of Writers

A number of events led to the starting of Valley of Writers. I photographed the first event for the site in February 2019, two weeks before COVID-19 sent every one home. Initially, I thought the site would serve the many writers in Western MA, but I got an epiphany after much soul searching. The site needed to be a bridge between all the worlds of writing I found myself in.

FAVORITE MEMORIES

The Zimbo Jam Years

2008-2015 | These were some of my most rewarding, most meaningful, and most productive years as a professional. I interviewed, documented, and profiled hundreds of artists. My camera and keyboard took me all over Zimbabwe. They pulled me to South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Zanzibar, Tanzania, Kenya, Azerbaijan, Switzerland and Denmark. They yanked me into offices, conference halls, boardrooms, churches, brothels, and people’s homes. I dined with homeless people and with presidents and prime ministers.


BACKGROUND PHOTO: A PARTICIPANT AT THE COLOR RUN 2014, HARARE, ZIMBABWE | FUNGAIFOTO
BELOW: HIGHLIGHTS FROM MY ZIMBO JAM PHOTOGRAPHY WORK 2008-2015

FAVORITE MEMORIES

On Tour With Tuku

In 2010, I started doing online promotion work for the great Zimbabwean musician, Oliver Mtukudzi. In 2012 I was invited to join him on some of his tours, to document his work as an artist and philanthropist and continued to do this till 2015 when I left for the Nieman fellowship. I had grown up listening to this man’s music and dancing to it at Christmas parties and other events. I relished this opportunity.

Tuku passed away in January 2019. I couldn’t believe it. There was so much more music in him. So much more to share. It was a very sad day for all of us; his family, colleagues, fellow artists, and fans around the world. What I will remember most about him is his quiet persona off-stage, and how if you caught him alone at the right time, he would download priceless wisdom and insightful stories from his many years as an artist. I will also remember how when he stepped onto that stage, something inside him seemed to light up. He was transformed. Became someone else. Became something else.


BACKGROUND PHOTO: THE LATE OLIVER MTUKUDZI BACKSTAGE, BUSHFIRE FESTIVAL, SWAZILAND | FUNGAIFOTO
BELOW: DOCUMENTING A LEGEND – THE HIGHLIGHTS

FOREVER THANKFUL

Gratitude

Thank you to my parents, who sacrificed more than I will ever understand so that I might have an education and a more comfortable upbringing than they had.

Thank you to Aunt E for the joy of Prinz 110. Thank you to Nigel Johnson who gave me access to his fancy Minolta in 1997 and who taught me Aldus Pagemaker. Thank you Annie Mpalume who taught me how a histogram works. Thank you to Jekesai Njikizana for being one of my earliest inspirations. Thank you to the arts journalists of Zimbabwe who shared space, resources, and time with me, and made it possible for me to become one of them. Thank you to the people I have met along the way, who have shared laughs, made time to pause for selfies, switched lights on, opened doors, or welcomed me in. A flourish of abundance to you all.

And to the visual artists who have gone before us; from cave painters to graphic designers. Thank you for the path you laid.


BACKGROUND PHOTO: FUNGAI TICHAWANGANA, EXIST DIGITAL OFFICES, HARARE, ZIMBABWE | ZIMBO JAM ARCHIVES
BELOW: PEOPLE & PLACES – A SELFIE REEL OF MEMORIES & JUMP SHOTS