Gems of Zanzibar

Essay 479 • Apr 26th 2021

While parts of Europe and the West were still struggling in the dark ages, the bright light of the Orient had already started shining on Zanzibar. The Swahili Coast of East Africa formed part of a large mercantile civilization, where Zanzibar found itself strategically in the middle as an alluring, tropical stopover. Settlers and traders from the Middle East, Africa, India, South East Asia and Europe were drawn by the island's balmy weather and promise of riches.

When I traveled there for a few months at the end of 2020, I noticed a broad diversity amongst the Zanzibari young men with regard to ideologies, religion and cultural differences. Researching the history of Tanzania, I found that Zanzibar has a reputation of being one of the most historically fluid nodes of the Global South, where ideas, religious views and cultures have intermingled for centuries.

With this series, I set out to explore what it means to be a young man in Zanzibar. From hustlers and aspiring artists on the streets of Stone Town to Masai tribesman interested in contemporary fashion and Western hip-hop culture.


Carl van Der Linde is a photographer and communications specialist from Cape Town, South Africa. He travels to exotic destinations, bringing stories to life that are narrated by his subjects and their environments. Carl’s time is divided between documentary photography and work at a local Cape Town based environmental NGO, Greenpop. His photography work has amongst others featured in i-D, Suitcase Magazine and BROAD Magazine.
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