Jewish Africa: A Cultural and Historical Photographic Survey


Welcome! Thanks for visiting. My blog aims to keep you informed of the adventures, events, and progress of my project, Jewish Africa: A Cultural and Historical Photographic Survey. Come on this great safari with me. I could use the company. To get you acquainted with my mission, here’s an outline of the project. For continued updates, please join my email list. Have fun!

Jono David at Mosaisk Nordre Begravelsesplads cemetery (1693-1967) in Copenhagen, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Denmark.

Jono David at Mosaisk Nordre Begravelsesplads cemetery (1693-1967) in Copenhagen, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Denmark.


Jewish Africa: A Cultural and Historical Photographic Survey successfully kicked off in August / September 2012 in South Africa and Zimbabwe. That trip was followed up by a second remarkable journey in January~April 2013 with more work across South Africa, plus Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, and Zambia.

Here are the stats thus far:

Leg #1 (Aug/Sep 2012), South Africa, Zimbabwe: 8,273 filed images, 6 weeks, 2 countries, from 85 unique locations and including 51 synagogues, 10 cemeteries, and dozens of social and life cycle events, portraits of community members, and much more.

Leg #2 (Jan~Apr 2013), South Africa, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia: 10,593 filed images, 9 weeks, 42 cemeteries, 6 museums, 51 synagogues, and dozens of social and life cycle events, portraits of community members, and much more.

Leg #3 in August~September 2013: South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Kenya, Uganda: 3,000 filed images, including the fascinating communities of the Abayudaya Jews of Uganda and plenty of social events photo opportunities in South Africa and elsewhere.

Leg #4 in February~April 2014: South Africa, Ghana, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda. I used my base camp of South Africa once again. From Johannesburg, I finally got out to the country communities of Kimberley and Bloemfontein (two previous planned excursions there fell through). I then headed to Ghana and Cameroon (a week each) to spend time with the Jews of the House of Israel and Congregation Beth Yeshourun (respectively). After a quick turnaround in Johannesburg, I flew out again to the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) to photograph an old synagogue and a few Jewish cemeteries in the southern city of Lubumbashi and, across the country in the capital of Kinshasa, I photographed Chabad of Central Africa (yep, there’s a yeshiva in the DRC). After catching my breath again in Jo’burg, I went to Rwanda for a week. There, I photographed the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre (which features the “Windows of Hope” stained glass by an artist whose father survived Auschwitz) and the Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village, established “to enable orphaned and vulnerable youth to realize their maximum potential by providing them with a safe and secure living environment, health care, education and necessary life skills (from ASYV website).” It was founded with the support of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation, a Jewish organization. The last three weeks of my journey were spent in Johannesburg (I was there for Purim) and the glorious Cape Town where I filled my time and memory card photographing a number of Jewish events and individuals that shape Jewish South Africa, including Holocaust survivors.

Leg #5 in July~September 2014 took me to South Africa, Madagascar, La Reunion, and Angola (plus a week in Israel). To read about my time in Madagascar and a few other thoughts, see my Jewish Africa blog. Even before I set out on leg #5, I knew I wouldn’t be filing a mass number of images. Instead, I knew I’d get some images from unique locations. I participated in the Limmud (Jewish Cultural) conference in Cape Town (Stellenbosch, actually), Durban, and Johannesburg, South Africa. I gave two presentations in each location, one on my background story as a Jewish photographic documentarian, the other wholly on my current Jewish Africa photo survey project. I also met three ambassadors. In Luanda, Angola, I spent time with Raphael Singer, Israeli Ambassador to Angola, Mozambique, and Sao Tome & Principe. He was exceptionally welcoming, accommodating, friendly, helpful, and gracious. In South Africa, I met Arthur Lenk, Israeli Ambassador to South Africa. I had actually briefly at an event in Johannesburg in August 2013. We crossed paths at all three Limmud events. I also met Yutaka Yoshizawa, Ambassador of Japan to South Africa at an event remembering Chiune Sugihara, the so-called “Japanese Schindler”. I met a host of remarkable people as I always do. I even got to hang out with lemur in Madagascar!

Leg #6 in February-April 2015 took time to configure the itinerary. In fact, it was a scramble for Africa. I returned to Morocco for the first time in 14 years. I was pleased to be as delighted by the country’s beauty as much as I was the first time. I spent the best part of a month and covered a remarkable amount of ground. I also visited Ethiopia for a couple of weeks and Eritrea for just 4 days (plus another excursion to Israel). But it was just a bit odd not to include South Africa as I had been there on every leg thus far. I missed the place and the people. But there’s a very good chance I’ll be back for the final two legs.

Leg #7 in July~September 2015 was remarkable. It started out with a week in London visiting relatives and friends, and taking in my first Jewish Africa photo show at the Irish Jewish Museum in Dublin. Then it was on to some island hopping in Cape Verde, a pleasantly surprising dynamic place with small but notable Jewish heritage. From there, it was into the Euro zone in Portugal’s Madeira and Spain’s Melilla, the former having no Jewish life today, the latter vibrant and welcoming. I then traveled to a place I really thought I’d never go, Nigeria. From the moment of arrival right through to departure, I was at ease with my local contacts who graciously took care of everything for me and made my visit perfectly productive and smooth. I was impressed by the Igbo Jewish communities. To round things out, I returned to my favorite African country, South Africa. I spent a week in Johannesburg with friends and colleagues and even took an unexpected jaunt with my man Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, the Travelling Rabbi, on a day-long jaunt to Eastern Province. I was also in Joburg for the official dedication of the Johannesburg Holocaust & Genocide Centre, and I was honored to be on the invite list with such prestigious guests including Ambassadors, Captains of Industry, Volunteers, and Holocaust survivors. I soaked up a bit of Cape Town and the Western Cape for my final 4 days which, among other things, included lunch at the Cape Town Parliament with one of two Jewish MPs and getting the first personalized signed copy of the book “Sugar Man” from Sugar Segerman of Searching for Sugar Man fame. The journey always ends too soon.

Leg #8, February-April 2016, is at hand. The final Jewish Africa photo travel leg. I can hardly believe where all the time and miles have gone. There is still much to photograph before I call it a day. I’m eyeing destinations that include Morocco (again), Senegal, Tunisia, Gabon (via Cameroon), South Africa, and possibly, just maybe I can get to Egypt. There are a couple of other possible destinations in the offing too. I can’t wait to get on the road again!

Enjoy viewing JEWISH AFRICA PHOTO HIGHLIGHTS. See a full list of NEWEST PHOTO GALLERIES. You may also enjoy reading about my Jewish Africa experiences on my JEWISH AFRICA BLOG.

These remarkable journeys, the unique experiences they bring, and the welcoming people I have met, inspire me to dream big and will help propel my endeavor to photographically document Jewish life, culture, and history in some 30 nations on the African continent in order to contribute to the diverse Jewish historical record across that great land.

Since the time of Abraham and his sojourn in Egypt, the Jewish people have had a presence in Africa, making some communities the oldest in the world. Communities such as the Beta Israel (Falasha) of Ethiopia and the Lemba of South Africa claim descent from ancient Israel (the Lost Tribes of Israel). Furthermore, Jews in Africa are greatly diverse peoples with distinct cultures, languages, and customs. They include the Sephardi and Mizrahi across North Africa, and mostly Ashkenazi Jews from Europe who settled in Southern Africa, particularly in South Africa. In fact, over several recent decades, a number of ethnic groups from around the continent have claimed a Jewish, Hebrew, or Israelite lineage. These groups include, but are not limited to, the Igbo (Nigeria), the Zakhor (Mali), the House of Israel (Ghana), the Tutsi-Hebrews (Rwanda), and the Abayudaya (Uganda). Today, no Jewish community in Africa is expanding (though some of the afore-named groups are). Some are in great peril either in terms of population, economic hardship, political and/or religious pressures, cultural assimilation, or a combination thereof. Many communities have already disappeared, leaving behind their synagogues, cemeteries, homes, buildings, legacies, and contributions to local life. Sadly, in most cases, those communities eventually fall into obscurity.

Though my objectives are many, my main aim is to compile the single largest photographic survey of Jewish life and culture on the African continent compiled by an individual photographer. As a documentarian, my goal is not merely to preserve as much of Jewish Africa in photographs for posterity, but to bring light to communities that have become dark, and to stoke a worldwide (Jewish) consciousness for the long, rich, significant, exciting, and important historical record, past and present, of Jewish Africa. I anticipate filing a minimum of 100,000 photographs. Along the way, I also intend to write about my findings and adventures in Jewish publications and my personal blog, and to publish a book and give presentations once the job is complete (if such a job can ever be complete).

This ambitious mission that I have set out for myself will be no easy undertaking. It will demand a personal commitment much deeper than to any previous Jewish photo tour I have taken to date. Success will also depend greatly upon many, many generous souls both locally and around the world to give of their time and assistance. No matter the results, it will be an amazing journey. I hope that you will come along with me by lending me your support (financially, logistically, spiritually), by following my social network posts and my blog, by developing an awareness of and an interest in Jewish Africa, and by sharing with friends and family whatever bits fire your imagination. SUPPORT OPTIONS and IDEAS include but are not limited to: financial, logistical, publications, exhibitions, publicity. Become a partner today by offering your own measure of support. From $1 to one contact, from one suggestion to one sharing of my work with your friends, your support in whatever form and at whatever level of commitment is a valuable asset in the creation and sustainability of this photo project.

WHERE I INTEND TO PHOTOGRAPH (in alphabetical order): Algeria, Botswana, Canary Islands* (Spanish archipelago), Cameroon, Cape Verde, Republic of Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Libya, Madeira* (Portuguese archipelago), Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Réunion* (French Island), Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, South Africa, Swaziland, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. (* = politically European but geographically African.)

Every synagogue
Every Jewish cemetery
Jewish holiday and festival events
Monuments, museums, historical sights
Community leaders and members

FURTHER READING ABOUT MY JEWISH AFRICA PHOTO PROJECT in the Cape Jewish Chronicle: “Scatterlings of Africa” —  feature about my Jewish Africa photo survey project. Cape Jewish Chronicle, Cape Town, South Africa. March 2012. Also, in the South African Jewish Report (Friday, 7 September 2012 — feature on page 12): “Jono David Carries Jewish Flame of Memory to All Corners of the Globe“.

### end (April 21, 2012, Osaka, Japan)

NEWEST PHOTOS and VIDEOS: To review all my latest images and videos from Africa and the world, be sure to see NEWEST PHOTO GALLERIES @ VIDEOS: Jewish South Africa and Jewish Zimbabwe.


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