Anna Boyiazis Featured in The Guardian's "The Big Bicture"
October 15, 2023 | Source: Monroe Gallery of Photography
October 15, 2023
The big picture: Zanzibari schoolgirls enjoy the liberation of floating
Anna Boyiazis’s tranquil image captures a group of Muslim girls, previously not allowed to swim, during a lesson
Sun 15 Oct 2023
Life on the island of Zanzibar is intimate with the surrounding ocean, but for many years women in the majority Muslim population were prohibited from learning to swim. Two things changed that. The first was the advent of the full-body swimsuit, or burkini. The second was a project called Panje (a Swahili word that translates as “big fish”), which was established by an NGO in 2011 to support young people in Nungwi village find employment. Panje taught women in the village to swim for the first time and encouraged them in turn to become swimming teachers, challenging entrenched patriarchal models of learning.
The photographer Anna Boyiazis also had the sea in her bones. She grew up in California; the origins of her family were on the Aegean Islands of Greece. In 2017, as part of a project called Finding Freedom in the Water, Boyiazis spent a long time persuading the Islamic authorities in Nungwi to allow her to photograph the women involved in the Panje initiative, so that the idea could be promoted as an example to other communities – not least because the east coast of Africa has some of the highest rates of drowning in the world.
Boyiazis’s “Burkini Island” series featured in National Geographic and won numerous prizes, including a World Press award and a Unicef photo of the year award. This picture – which captures all of the simple liberation of floating; the women, eyes closed, seem transported far beyond the mundane reality of their water-carrier buoyancy aids.
Speaking of her series, Boyiazis has said: “It would have been torture for me as a woman to grow up in Zanzibar and not be allowed to swim. This project was the definite merging of two of my favourite worlds, being in the water and taking pictures.”