South Sudan Trip 2013

I was invited by Cress UK to go with them to South Sudan as a guest of Bishop Anthony Poggo and his wife. This was a fantastic opportunity to return to Africa with a camera and I had a great visit. Capturing the heart of an area in a few days is impossible, that takes months, living actually with or very close to the people, in the time available I could merely scratch the surface, but the people and the scenery are amazing, there is such poverty but such welcoming smiles .

Ministries Aviation Cessna with pilot preparing for take-off for KajoKeji, South Sudan

We’d arrived in Entebbe from London, and there waiting was the MAF plane to fly us in to KajoKeji, South Sudan. Simon our brilliant pilot checking the manifest.


Nine of us, eight ladies and myself, went in early September flying with British Airways   to Entebbe in Uganda, then making use of the wonderful charity Ministries Aviation Fellowship to fly us into the grass landing strip in KajoKeji in South Sudan.

Ministries Aviation Cessna Plane taking off from KajoKeji, South Sudan

The photographic opportunity of the trip when Simon took off to return to Entebbe. The landing strip is the top of a low hill so you cannot see the plane until it is a few hundred yards away. Panic ensued!




We were welcomed by a horde of people, young children from the school nearby, a choir and the staff from the Bishops Office with their wonderfully named Toyota Landcruisers! Below are a few of the several thousand images I took. Portrait photography takes on a different challenge here, where noses are rarely wiped, and there are rips in most clothing.

The Bishops Car - God if Faithful

The Bishops Car – God if Faithful – I got more than used to being stuffed in the back with a few chickens, Joseph, often Jane our lovely doctor, or Rachel, plus a few others along for the ride. Here the children peer suspiciously at the ‘new arrivals’!

Newly constructed road with cyclists and pedestrians

The road to nowhere, well to a few villages, but perhaps a little external influence resulted in the upgrading of a rutted road. Sadly with little roadstone available these suffer badly in the rains.

Portrait of boy with runny nose and eyes

Portrait of boy with runny nose and eyes. Although at first glance many of the children we saw appeared relatively healthy, their state of poverty left them looking much younger than they actually are. A big difference from child portraiture in the UK.

Portrait of Bishop Anthony Poggo

Our wonderful host was Bishop Anthony Poggo who put up with some of the ladies using the spare rooms in his house, and the rest of us using his palace as base for operations.

Portrait of girl carrying water

Portrait of girl carrying water. Many families had only one water container, which raises real challenges in boiling and storing water to prevent infection. We were able to purchase extra containers for some of the families.

Portrait of Sleeping boy with flies

This image made us realise how easily disease could be transmitted, how wonderful if some of the companies who supply insect repellant clothing would use spare to make coverlets to donate – how many lives would be saved each year?

Roundel huts Kajo Keji, South Sudan

Roundel huts Kajo Keji, South Sudan. These beautiful buildings are perhaps under threat from more European design with corrugated roof. The thatch is very expensive and can suffer badly if the rains are exceptional. But very beautiful.

Dragonfly, Kajo Keji, South Suda

I was photographing ladies and children breaking roadstone when this beautiful piece of creation landed close by. The contrast with the rest of the scene where women and children huddled under wind torn makeshift sunshades breaking the micaceous schist into pebble sized pieces for making concrete.

Portrait of Happy Chap, Kajo Keji, South Sudan

This little lad seemed to turn up everywhere – sometimes asleep on a bench, here with an apple, wherever there was action. He did not communicate with words but his eyes and expressions said much. I took far too many portraits of him.

Portrait of boys looking on, Kajo Keji Cathedral, South Sudan

The conference that the ladies were leading took place in Kajo Keji Cathedral and was a source of fascination to many, including these two cheerful lads.

Portrait of shy and beautiful child, Kajo Keji, South Sudan

This little girl hung around the water tap at the back of the cathedral. Her hair, which I photographed as well was in little tufts. Her face was so lovely and shy that I have chosen it here rather than the full face portrait.

Portrait of girl giving boy water

Portrait of girl giving boy water. During the ladies conference in the cathedral many children were left outside to amuse themselves, and to look after whoever needed it.

Smoked fish from Lake Victoria, Uganda

These smoked fish from Lake Victoria, Uganda were stored in the roof space of the kitchen hut at the Bishops Palace. Mixed with spinach and cooked, they were somewhat crunchy and an acquired taste.

Mountains, Kajo Keji, South Sudan

Mountains, Kajo Keji, South Sudan. These hills drew my eyes every morning, with a yearning to reach them and explore, and made the bumpy journey every morning worth it.

Cooking Photography -  Kajo Keji, South Sudan

Cooking Photography – smoked fish were used to add a little flavour to the rather bland maize flour meals served to the two hundred or so ladies attending the Cress Conference.

 Dried maize hanging in roundel hut.

Cooking Photography – Dried maize hanging in roundel hut. A staple source of food, often ground to flour, mixed with water and cooked.

An "Aga",  Kajo Keji, South Sudan

An “Aga”. Cooking inside the roundels was a hazardous business especially where young children were present. If the weather was bad the roundels would be filled with smoke.

Leopard eyes, Kajo Keji, South Sudan

The beauty of Leopard eyes. There were two captive leopards in a tiny cage at the DC’s house. Too look across Africa where you belong, but to never get beyond the cage.

Surgical Instruments, Liwola-Hospital, Kajo Keji, South Sudan

Surgical Instruments at Liwola-Hospital lay rusting in a dish. The beds rusty, and rags across the windows. Cress are sponsoring a medic and a ‘surgery’ elsewhere in the village, anyone willing to help sponsor please contact

Female portrait, Kajo Keji, South Sudan

On the first day some of us were taken on a fact-finding mission, or ‘jolly’ as those who missed it referred to it. Many of those who had arrived for the conference came as well, so we had ‘us a convoy’. One part of the trip was to the District Commissioners Office an it was here that I took a number of portraits of locals who were just ‘sitting, waiting’.

Leopard tongue, Kajo Keji, South Sudan

The earlier picture of the leopard showed just it’s eyes. Here I have cropped in on its tongue, but see the morsel of flesh from it’s last meal. To us the whole thing was awful, but an African perspective is different, they cannot cope with ‘animal hospitals’ in the UK when they have so few doctors and decent hospitals for people in Sudan.

Hair Fashion, Kajo Keji, South Sudan

I took this portrait of this girls hair at a confirmation service that I went to with Bishop Anthony Poggo. She was leading a group of ladies in worship to God, she was beautiful, her hair stunning and her voice totally haunting – and did I record it, no of course not!

Woman smoking, Kajo Keji, South Sudan

This woman smoking while her baby cried for attention was a haunting moment, the disturbance of the child who just wanted attention, mixed with the beauty of the woman, and the atmospheric smoke and light – I took quite a number of images, and even my daughters approved of the result!

Joseph. Cress Co-ordinator, Kajo Keji, South Sudan

Joseph. Well what can you do but admire the discernment of Bishop Anthony in recognising and nurturing God’s gifts to this young man. A heart bigger than himself, and a vision with the sort of brave ideas that only God can inspire. To be ‘released’ to work fully with Cress in implementing what God has ordained would be one of the most vision filled and generous acts of those above him.

Tailor with antique sewing machine, Kajo Kej,  South Sudan

On a trip to the local market I came across a group of men with ancient sewing machines, some dating back to the 1920’s.

God is faithful, road survey, Kajo Keji, South Sudan

One of my tasks was to undertake a photographic ‘survey’ of the roads over which Bishop Anthony and his staff were required to travel, some of them by Landcrusier, others by motorbike. The conditions were pretty bad even in the dry, let alone on a dark rainy night.

Teenage portrait,  Kajo Keji, South Sudan

Teenage portrait. This young man stood out from the smiling throng around him, perhaps just uncertainty, but maybe trauma from the years of fighting before the division of Sudan. May God grant a swift end to the events that are taking place since we left that country.

MAF Cessna positioning for take-off. Kajo Keji, South Sudan

It was time to depart. We hung around uncertain as to whether the storm clouds would build up before the flight came to fetch us. But we made it, although the journey back to Entebbe involved dodging around a lot of magnificent storm cells.

Portrait of Girl. Kajo Keji, South Sudan

Waiting to bid us farewell was this lovely smiling girl. I have wondered long about what is actually behind the smiling faces of Africa, so much deprivation, yet apparently so happy.

Fishing boat, Lake Victoria, Uganda

I was lucky to spend an hour or so before the light fell photographing on the shores of Lake Victoria. These young men paddling out provided a real contrast with their modern hoodies, and the ancient style of craft.

Pied Kingfisher, LakeVictoria, Uganda

There were quite a number of these beautiful Pied Kingfishers working the shores of Lake Victoria near the Sienna Beach Hotel where we stayed before our British Airways Flight back to the UK.

Pied Kingfisher Fishing, LakeVictoria, Uganda

The Pied Kingfisher is a much more chirpy bird than the one found in England, and rather more easy to Photograph.

At the end of our time we were again treated to the services of that wonderful charity MAF, then spent a night at an hotel – The Sienna Beach Hotel – on the shores of Lake Victoria with its wildlife and little fishing boats. A few words about CressUK and MAF. Cress Uk was established with the aim of supporting and empowering the South Sudanese to improve their livelihoods through the education of children, teacher training , agriculture and medical support.  It is a small charity with the massive strength that it really is ‘hands-on’. MAF is an organisation that I had known of for some years having had a friend from St Paul’s Church in Salisbury who flew for them. MAF fly light aircraft in Africa, Asia, Eurasia and Latin America with the remit of enabling people who need access to assist those in remote areas to reach them with relative ease.

AND if you were to ask what vital pieces of kit I would take, apart from the standard things you can read about everywhere, the list would consist of Rohans Anti Insect Clothing, a Petzl Head Torch, a decent self filtering water bottle and Nairns Oatcakes (both cheese and natural).

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© Michael Blyth Photography 2024