Travel

Stunning Photos of Uganda's Nocturnal Grasshopper Trappers

In this stunning series Michele Sibiloni leaves the club scene behind for the fields of Uganda.

by Michele Sibiloni
Nov 11 2016, 12:00am

This story appeared in the November issue of VICE magazine. Click HERE to subscribe.

I've always been attracted to what happens after dark. Or perhaps, more accurately put, I'm addicted to it. I crave adventure. I spent almost two years in Kampala, Uganda's capital, documenting the city's eccentric nightlife for my book Fuck It, and then I set out for the countryside, where I started my nsenene (the Luganda word for Uganda's long-horned grasshopper) project. I became fascinated with the men who, under the cover of the night, illegally tap into power grids, using the lights to attract, and then capture, grasshoppers. Ugandans eat these insects—they're a delicacy—and during the rainy season, when they're out in abundance and easier to trap, the hunters sell them to locals.

Originally, I intended to shoot images of only the grasshoppers—I'd thought that I would come across huge swarms of them—but after moving around so often, and failing to discover what I had hoped to, I shifted my focus. The title of my work took on a new meaning, too. There weren't swarms of grasshoppers; the traps were often empty. With time to spare, I interviewed the trappers, and I learned about the business aspects of their chase, as well as the more mythical elements: what they think of these grasshoppers, and where they think the creatures come from—different planets, Lake Victoria, overseas. This project has been endlessly fascinating, and I have no intention of stopping soon. I'm continuing to photograph this phenomenon, and though I'm not sure what the final product will be, I hope it succeeds in presenting this way of life as both practical and magical: a risky gamble for the people trying to earn money in a country with widespread poverty, and a beautiful, almost heavenly showcase of lights against a rich and varied landscape.