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Ukuleles can help you let go

Thursday, February 14, 2008 by Marianne Elliott

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The Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra in action, Deluxe Cafe, Wellington. February 2008.

Life in Wellington is so different to life in Ghor that it seems ludicrous to continue writing about the former in a space originally created for my stories from the latter. But I know that some of you are interested (thank you) and also I know that this is just as much a part of my story.

Last week I got my camera out for the first time in weeks. It was the fabulous Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra that finally motivated me to get behind the lense and photograph something that isn't Afghanistan.

Up until then I had taken a few photos of my family and some wonderfully life affirming photos at a music festival where my friend Gemma had been playing her ukulele and singing and her boyfriend and some other playful souls had dressed up as skeletons and rode a multi-bike around town blasting salsa music.

Andy on the Whopper Chopper bike in front of the samba stage.

But otherwise I have found it difficult to see the subject right in front of me. I guess was still in the process of accepting that I had moved on from the subject which I had been photographing for the past two years, the people of Afghanistan. So these photographs, of my friends and their bandmates playing joyful music on a sunny day in peaceful New Zealand, are a kind of milestone for me. They are a wee symbol of my own progress in embracing the goodness of being home and letting go of the guilt and sadness I've been feeling about leaving Ghor.

It is hard to resist the joy of 12 good people playing ukuleles and singing their hearts out. Of course I love this photo of my dear friend Gemma,


this one of beautiful Megan rocking out on her uke,


this one of the multi-talented Age Pryor,


and this one of Francis – an old friend of a dear friend of mine and another multi-talented Kiwi wonder,


I love the summery goodness of this photo of my friend Nigel – yet another of those supremely talented kiwi boys (classically trained opera singer, virtuoso player of multiple instruments, playwrite, actor, comedian)


I love all those photos. But I know that you all only came here to see this one of Bret, more famous in the USA for being half of the deliriously funny Flight of the Conchords than for his role in the Ukulele Orchestra, but a much-valued band member all the same.


In other news, I have approached a few venues here about exhibiting my photographs from Ghor and received really positive responses. I described this to my counsellor as a way for me to share a little bit of the world I knew in Afghanistan with people here in New Zealand without being required to actually talk about it. It's a way of bridging the gap for me, I suppose. More on that exhibition soon.


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13 Responses to "Ukuleles can help you let go"

  1. amy says:

    your words and your photos are lovely and life affirming. a wonderfully talented bunch of friends is a beautiful piece of the puzzle. i’m glad that you’re getting some sunshine and some ukuleles. look forward to hearing more about your exhibition. take care.

  2. homeinkabul says:

    So glad to see that you are replenishing the well and ukuleles look fun!
    I have tagged you, if you feel like it. If not, no worries. Keep enjoying yourself!

  3. Brian says:

    It is a jarring contrast, but you’ve helped so many people. You have so much to give to world, it’s all right to give back to yourself.

  4. emma says:

    Bret’s also famous for being hot.
    HOT, I say!! 🙂
    Thanks for these great photos, it’s good to hear from (read from?) you.

  5. Honey says:

    My how we’ve missed you! But of course do understand what a hugely transitional time this is for you. Thanks for sharing these photos–it looks like a hoot! Peace & Love!

  6. andrea scher says:

    So fun to see this other life of yours!
    will you be picking up the ukulele too?
    and looking forward to hearing more about your photo project.

  7. Jennifer says:

    Looks like you are having some good times while you try to adjust to the huge change of being back in New Zealand. It must be such a struggle. I am glad to see you are able to be out there and enjoy some wonderful ukuleles.

  8. susanna says:

    These are terrific photographs, Frida! So full of joy and Life! Yes, you are right, this is another part, a new chapter, in the story of your life. And what an interesting Life you are leading! I can’t help but smile, imagining what it must have been like to stroll around this festival, listening to the ukeleles (is that a popular instrument in New Zealand?), watching your friends perform live (look at the joy on their faces!), laughing at them dressed up in costume (why skeletons?). I’m glad that you are experiencing this right now in your life. And please keep us posted on your photo exhibition. What a good way to remember your years in Afghanistan.

  9. michelle says:

    ukuleles…how can you not smile at a ukulele…

  10. Di says:

    Oh beautiful New Zealand! Thanks for sharing – it’s so odd to see that yes, summer in the south is still happening while we sit waiting and hoping that spring will stay with us.
    Good luck with the exhibitions.

  11. bibbi says:

    Yes, embrace goodness! It’s so important in hard times, and so difficult. Thank you for the photos, your friends look nice! I’ve missed your reflecting, welcome back.

  12. annieelf says:

    What a wonderful time you had; all the happy faces. Just dropped in today and I see that I have a lot of catching up to do. Best wishes on mounting an exhibit of your photographs.

  13. You haven’t lost your touch with photography! Wonderful photos! xo

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