An Oklahoma City artist will showcase over 50 photographs from his three-week African excursion Thursday night to benefit the local organization that made his first international experience possible.
Painter, musician and former journalist Jack Fowler traveled throughout the West Nile region of Uganda for 21 days in July. Fowler will sell prints of pictures he took during the trip to benefit Pros for Africa, a nonprofit organization that encourages local professionals to share their time and resources with the children of Africa.
Fowler bought a new Nikon camera lens the day before he left for the trip, he said. He wanted a fresh lens to help capture his tale.
“I ended up taking just under 10,000 photographs in three weeks,” Fowler said, adding that his journey through the region started long before he stepped off a plane.
The mission and struggles of Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe deeply moved Fowler when Nyirumbe came to speak at Oklahoma City University’s Pros for Africa fundraiser over a year ago.
The organization supports Nyirumbe’s work enrolling over 2,000 girls previously involved in the Lord’s Resistance Army at Saint Monica Girls’ Tailoring School in the northern Ugandan city of Gulu.
Fowler — who decided to plan for Africa the day after Nyirumbe’s visit — held an art show to raise the funds for his summer trip in three hours.
During his travels, Fowler said he met thousands of Ugandans working in several orphanages and schools throughout the West Nile region.
“I started photographing the people because I couldn’t get over how beautiful they were,” he said. “The way the sun glows on Ugandans’ skin is obviously very different than the way it glows on mine.”
Fowler’s affinity for the Ugandan people grew from their vibrant love of life, despite decades of violence and atrocity.
“When Ugandans laugh, they laugh with their whole body,” he said. “There’s more to it than an American smile ... It’s deeper somehow.”
When an Internet connection was available, Fowler shared his photographs on social media to a receptive audience of art colleagues and friends. Through that circle, he was able to organize Thursday’s art show soon after returning home.
“Being such good friends with Rosemary now, I wanted to give something back to her,” he said.
The free event will include a catered dinner, full bar and live musical performances by Stranded at the Station, White Mule and Carrington Bass. A portion of the proceeds will go to Pros for Africa and its support of Nyirumbe.
The show’s title, Affoyo, means “thank you.” It’s also a standard greeting in Acholi, a tribal language spoken in the West Nile region of Uganda.
Fowler said that if he were to have another goal for this photography exhibition, he hopes it would inspire at least one person to travel to Africa.
“It’s pretty incredible,” he said. “They make it pretty easy for guys like me to get over there and connect with these people.”