Category Archives: africa

blonde (i)photos & other news.

i’ve been busy.

me, on stage for Mortified DC – School’s Out for Summer, 2012
photo by Mary Kate McKenna Photography, LLC

in fact, the last 16 months have been straight up tumultuous. exciting to say the least, and downright harrowing at times. but good – all very good.

i know, i know – moving to kenya, shooting weddings & photo projects all over the states, mexico & africa, becoming a kenyan resident & starting a kenyan business, then narrowly escaping somali pirates, leaving my beloved lamu island, kenya, teaching in india, falling in love, traveling some more, becoming a storyteller, becoming an innkeeper, and taking up woodworking are not excuses for ignoring my blog for over a year…but there are some things you just can’t plan for. sometimes life takes over, and really, i blame my iphone. it’s true – i love having a camera with me all the time that fits in my pocket and takes great images. and i love uploading those photos directly to facebook and sharing them with friends, family & fans. plus, it has helped me begin to separate photography work & photography fun, since that line was starting to blur (in a bad way) after working so hard the past 7 years.

just so you know, all of my recent work from the last 16 months (weddings, portraits, travel, documentary) can be found on the blonde photo | facebook page. if you aren’t a fan, and you want to stay up-to-date on everything i’m shooting & doing, then you should go ahead and click here.

sometimes i miss blogging, but it’s no longer part of my workflow, and i’m not yet sure if i will get it back anytime soon. more so, i’ve been working on my personal writing lately, turning some of my crazy stories into performances, and yes, you can see some of those on my new youtube channel. and blonde brouhaha site! i’m also dreaming up a new website to highlight all of my crazy creative endeavors, but still figuring out how to combine my three loves:

blonde photo | blonde brouhaha | blonde voyage

…and i was serious about everything i mentioned above, especially the fact that i am running a beautiful, historic bed & breakfast, so if you are interested, you can find out more about that here.

and now, for your visual delight, here are some of my favorite blonde (i)photos from the past year.

enjoy.

iphone :: kenya – key west – dc – india – eastern shore – puerto rico

2 Comments

July 19, 2012 · 9:52 pm

lusungu + jason :: married!

in love in lamu.

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya
lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya.

kipungani is a secluded, remote area of lamu island located on the southwest side, and separated from the mainland by a peaceful, mangrove lined bay. the beach is an endless stretch of white sand, speckled with palm trees and strewn with delicate sand dollars, facing out onto the indian ocean. traversing the 15 miles from either of the two main settlements on the island, lamu town or shela village, takes approximately 3 hours on foot, 1.5 hours by dhow (sail boat) or 25 minutes by speedboat.

for lu + jason’s wedding, guests flew in from nairobi and landed on the manda airstrip, just across the channel from lamu island, and traveled by speedboat to kizingoni beach. kipungani is a very small village, and kizingoni beach is a collection of privately owned, stunning swahili houses, with a full staff to accomodate guests and arrange meals, activities and excursions, as well as plan events + weddings.

guests flew in from all over the world to spend the week exploring the island with lusungu + jason — sailing, snorkeling, and soaking up swahili traditions. there were sumptuous swahili style meals, trips to lamu town, manda toto and the takwa ruins, a sunset dhow cruise, and even a henna ceremony for the ladies! lamu is simply a fantastic destination and an incredible setting for a wedding celebration! lu + jason absolutely love lamu, and it’s easy to see why…

having been in shela for the three preceding weeks, i jumped on a speedboat and joined the wedding party on the tuesday before the wedding. i loved being part of the week’s festivites and spending time getting to know lu + jason’s family + friends. i’m not sure i’ve ever encountered such a diverse, talented and truly brilliant group of people in one place before! it was a fascinating mix of international journalists, teachers, artists, UN workers, and authors…in fact, jason *just* published his book Dancing with Monsters — which details the political, social, and moral issues of the Congo, and is being hailed as an “impressively controlled account of the devastating Congo war.” incredible!

the wedding ceremony took place on the afternoon of november 27th at the mary mother of jesus catholic church in lamu town — followed by a brief stop in shela village for portraits, and back to kipungani by speedboat for a beach ceremony at sunset. following a series of wonderful speeches, poems, an even a song written by one of their good friends, guests reveled in a bonfire on the beach, dinner by candlelight, and dancing under the stars.

lusungu + jason :: CONGRATS! or more appropriately, in swahili, HONGERA! i adore you both and will cherish the memories of your wedding celebration always.

enjoy!

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

lusungu + jason :: married! lamu island, kenya

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Filed under africa, lamu, photography, photojournalism, travel, wedding

snapshot :: love in lamu.


lusungu + jason ::  married! lamu island, kenya.

7 Comments

Filed under africa, snapshot, wedding

BLONDEVOYAGE!

my *new* travel blog!

i am *so* excited to share my new travel blog BLONDEVOYAGE – which will chronicle my adventures for the next few months, while i’m based off the coast of kenya, in the village of shela, on lamu island!

i leave in just a few hours (woo!) and won’t arrive on the island until tuesday afternoon (!!), where i will be greeted with sunshine, white sails, and the gorgeous smiling faces of the people who live there! for the next three months i will have the privilege of calling this beautiful island my home…i am so looking forward to relishing in the simplicity of village life. along with photographing an amazing wedding on the island at the end of the month, im looking forward to spending the next few weeks focusing on writing (my first love) and photography (my passion) in this incredible environment. in all my travels around the world this is the *first* time i have ever returned to a place i have traveled previously! my plan is to update BLONDEVOYAGE often with news, stories, and photos — so stay tuned!

also, i *just* posted FIVE blogs from my travels to this very place earlier this year, so if you are curious as to where i’ll be, what i’ll be doing, and why i absolutely love this island so much, check it out!

enjoy!

* * *

lamu island, kenya – 2010:

part I :: lamu :: shela village.

part II :: lamu :: maulidi.

part III :: lamu :: dhow races.

part IV :: lamu :: shela primary school.

part V :: kiwayu :: island life.

* * *

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Filed under africa, me, news, photography, snapshot, travel

lamu :: shela village.


a dhow rests on a sandbar just off the coast of shela beach, lamu island, kenya.

the lamu archipelago lies two degrees south of the equator, just off the coast of kenya, surrounded by the indian ocean, yet protected by coral reefs and mangrove forests. lamu is the main island in the chain, and is both a UNESCO world heritage site and the oldest living town in kenya. lamu town was one of east africa’s original swahili settlements, and a bustling port city on the arab trading routes. there is a well-preserved swahili culture and a strong religious community. shela village, just a few miles from lamu town, is the second largest settlement on the island, and in stark contrast to lamu town — with stretches of sandy beach, white-washed houses, and relaxed atmosphere. dhows and fishing boats rest along the shore line and donkeys meander through the narrow streets. there are no cars on the island, and a generator supplies power (most of the time) and it’s pretty much always hot and sunny, and the water is always clear and cool. for me, and for many who visit this beautiful island, shela is a perfect, and unexpected paradise.

* * * * *

lamu island, kenya – 2010:

part I :: lamu :: shela village.

part II :: lamu :: maulidi.

part III :: lamu :: dhow races.

part IV :: lamu :: shela primary school.

part V :: kiwayu :: island life.

* * * * *

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Filed under africa, lamu, photography, travel

lamu :: maulidi.


maulidi celebrations in lamu town, lamu island, kenya.

maulidi is a religious festival and annual celebration held in lamu during the third month of the muslim calendar to commemorate the birth of the prophet mohammed. this year marked the 121st celebration on the island, which attracts faithful celebrants from all over east africa and the middle east, as well as tourists from around the world.

maulidi is lamu’s unique and purely east african version of the religious festival, milad-un-nabi. centered around religious celebrations and the riyadha mosque, the festivities last for several days, featuring an array of cultural activities throughout town. there is elaborate drumming and dancing, and competitions that honor traditional culture — bao games, dhow races, swimming competition, and the donkey race, as well as poetry and embroidery. the festival is a source of great pride for the entire community, and the festivities truly ignite the island with excitement. it is amazing to witness such appreciation and devotion from such a united and connected community.

on the last day of maulidi, all of the men of gather at the town cemetery to pray and begin a procession into town. the procession is unreal — endless rows of men in white kanzu and kofia march through the streets, holding hands and dancing and singing in loud celebration. they move along the seafront towards the centre of town, accompanied by drums, and greeted by throngs of people on every corner. i wandered through the streets looking for a good spot, and was welcomed into a doorway on one of the good corners, which gave me a perfect view as they moved from the dock and into the streets of town. rose water is poured and splashed on everyone, including bystanders, and at the end i was completely drenched in the sweet smell, my ears ringing with the sounds of their singing, and absolutely in love with maulidi.

* * * * *

lamu island, kenya – 2010:

part I :: lamu :: shela village.

part II :: lamu :: maulidi.

part III :: lamu :: dhow races.

part IV :: lamu :: shela primary school.

part V :: kiwayu :: island life.

* * * * *

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Filed under africa, lamu, photography, travel

lamu :: shela primary school.


school children at shela primary on lamu island, working with polaroid film.

ive said it before, and ill say it again — i love polaroid cameras!

i absolutely love working with children, and while they are always very excited to learn about photography and love to have their photo taken, nothing beats the added joy of instant gratification with polaroid film! they loved posing, helping set up shots, and then handling and shaking the prints while they exposed right before their eyes. after every child had a photograph, they went back to the classroom and placed the photos in their notebooks, writing sentances in english describing where they were and what they were doing in the photograph  — love! i spent most of my time with the first graders who were so energetic and eager to learn and talk with me. at times they were totally giddy, but their teacher — the amazing miss grace — handled them perfectly, firm but kind, and with breaks for recess :) it was a wonderful experience, and i cant wait to see them again next week! enjoy!

* * * * *

lamu island, kenya – 2010:

part I :: lamu :: shela village.

part II :: lamu :: maulidi.

part III :: lamu :: dhow races.

part IV :: lamu :: shela primary school.

part V :: kiwayu :: island life.

* * * * *

4 Comments

Filed under africa, children, education, lamu, photography, travel