Emma Fischer and Terrie Hessels – Improvising: A One​-​Year Journey Around Africa Photobook

'IMPROVISING’ is the story of an incredible journey by Emma Fischer (painter, graphic designer, ceramist) and Terrie Hessels (guitar player in The Ex) through 21 countries in Africa. They travelled for a year in an old Land Rover. Not as tourists, but as travellers with an open mind and free attitude, dealing with countless unexpected, unpredictable, sometimes risky, but mainly fascinating and fantastic situations.

Parking somewhere to sleep, relax and eat, only to be found by locals with whom they interacted, joked and laughed, ate together, listened to music, shared water, improvised. They socialised with Tuareg, Pygmy and Maasai people, with groups of kids, village elders and market women. They bought cassettes from Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed, participated in a Muslim wedding, struggled through the jungle with locals James, Magliore and Daniel and met many more amazing, very different people.

Sometimes they ended up in impossible places and situations: the remote desert, impenetrable jungles with vanished roads, feeble bridges and rusty railways. They encountered wild elephants and hippos and dealt with corrupt customs, military with guns, the French woodcutters mafia and even bumped into the president of the Congo. They witnessed the bizarre leftovers of the colonial era, the terrible tourist industry and the unease of people from ‘outside’, at embassies, companies, even churches and aid organisations. With of course some remarkable exceptions.

The journey happened exactly 25 years ago, so besides the personal dealing and wheeling, this book also gives a unique glimpse of that time. The stories come from the daily notes Emma and Terrie wrote in their diary. They didn’t take many photos, because they didn’t want to interrupt the personal interaction, but the ones in the book, as well as Emma’s drawings, are significantly striking. The polaroids had quite a social function as well: they were often shared with the person in the picture.

Terrie and Emma had to improvise a lot to accomplish the trip. But the people all over Africa improvise their whole daily lives, staying positive, amazed and open-minded, despite all the problems, setbacks and uncertainties. And no doubt they’re good at it. An inspiring example.

This book is all about the year-long ‘improvising’ journey, in the middle of ‘improvising’ people. 

"This highly entertaining account of the voyage zips along in an eternally breathless present tense, bristling with exclamations such as "Crazy!" and "Wow!" and driven by an infectiously child-like and wide-eyed enthusiasm that will be instantly recognisable to anyone who's ever seen The Ex ricocheting around the stage like big-booted pinballs." - Daniel Spicer, The Wire

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