Ancient MasterCard

Article from the series: Staying Safe and Healthy in Rwanda, Uganda and DR Congo

70 mm, f5.0, 1/160s, ISO800

When I first started travelling, traveller’s cheques were still a thing (though I don’t think I ever made much use of them). So was bringing cash — usually USD back in those days — to be turned into local currency at dodgy foreign exchange counters, or expensive hotels. I remember having a debit card when I went to Mexico back in ‘02, but it really wasn’t much good as it only worked in a small number of ATMs.

Fast forward to today, and I rarely even bring dollars for anything other than emergency backup. ATMs are everywhere, including in small towns in the Gorilla Highlands, and a Visa or MasterCard feels a lot safer to travel with than a wad of cash (just don’t bother bringing an Amex or something even more obscure, like a Diners Express).

I will also freely confess that long gone are the days when I kept my cash in a money belt, perhaps because I now carry so much valuable camera equipment that it feels silly to not trust a wallet. Having said that, I rarely keep it in a pocket I can’t close with a zip or a button, and more often in a shoulder bag I always see or feel. The best way to keep people honest, after all, is to minimize their opportunities for dishonesty.

Not wanting to bore you with a photo of an ATM, here is an example of bangles that came Indian Ocean coast with the Arabs, and used to pass as local currency in our region — featured in the hands of the one and only (and unfortunately late) Mr Festo Karwemera in his Bakiga museum in Kabale.

Photographing inside Karwemera’s museum, and wanting to emphasise hands as well as precious objects, I resorted to something I rarely use: flash! This allowed me to isolate the subject from the background as well as work in a low-light environment.

Don’t miss our extensive interview with Marcus and head to his website for even more.