Her work at the National Museum of Kenya toward the end of the semester inspired the project. “One of the things that got me started was that they had a lot of exhibits and work on Lamu in the past and not so much on Lamu now,” Shelburne explained.
The project encompasses a variety of issues that Shelburne encountered over the semester. “I worked a lot on looking at what people do to make a living there, both men and women … how families are structured, what the social ties in the community are,” she explained.
The photos will become part of Shelburne’s thesis, a book that will combine the pictures and various writing she has done about the experience. Some of the photos will also be sent to the National Museum of Kenya for display in Lamu.
Shelburne’s role as a foreign observer affected her personally when her tutor unexpectedly passed away. “I knew her well enough to miss her, but not as well as the people in the town did,” she explained. “There was this period of mourning that I was oddly removed from and at the same time participating in. Sort of on a sociological view it was really interesting, but it was also a friend of mine and really sad at the same time.”
Shelburne said the best part of the trip was her interaction with the community. “Because I was living there for four weeks, I got to spend a lot of time with the different families. I took care of [my tutor’s] younger son, which was great because I got sort of a kid’s-eye view on Lamu,” she said.
Another highlight of the trip was the lack of automobiles. The primary forms of transportation were walking, donkeys and boats. “It’s a really marine culture, so that was really neat. I definitely don’t have any experience with that sort of culture at all,” said Shelburne.