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Tomas Bachot: Obruni

Work / Photography

Photographer Tomas Bachot takes us inside the gilded world of Ghana’s expat community

“It was my first time in Ghana, which I had only knew about it from my then-girlfriend’s stories,” Belgium photographer Tomas Bachot tells us of the inspiration behind his series Obruni which looks at the colonial lifestyle of European expats in Ghana. “She grew up there as an Obruni – a foreigner. Her mother is Belgian and her father Ghanaian. Together, her parents built a cleaning supplies company there twenty years ago. I remember her saying that she had never been on a public bus, a tro-tro, in her life. Her parents or a chauffeur would drive her around Accra to the mall or to her school. Most of her friends were foreigners, although the French School she attended wasn’t the most exclusive: in the American one, tuition fees could be as high as $20,000 a year. Because of this, I already had an idea in mind before arriving. Still, I was amazed by the barbed wire fences around the big houses and the exclusive shops filled with European products. In these upscale neighbourhoods and gated communities, I saw more SUVs than people. The financial gap between the locals and the Westerners was so huge that it created rather a fictitious atmosphere. Almost every day I watched Belgian television and ate Flemish food. I slept with blankets in air-conditioned rooms when it was 30°C outside at night.”

For seven weeks, Tomas lived in and photographed the environment in which his former girlfriend had spent her youth, but as his time there wore on, Tomas found himself subconsciously shifting into the very mindset he was attempting to expose. “After two weeks I also found difficulty in seeing the distinctive way of life lead by the Obrunis. I was introduced into their lifestyle and this is how I was living in Ghana too. I quickly got used to it. That’s the turning point, when the awareness of the model you live in slips away.”

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Tomas Bachot: Obruni