Photographer Kristin-Lee Moolman and stylist Louise Ford present a body of work that sheds light on the Shela Hat Contest, an extraordinary hat-making competition on the Kenyan island of Lamu.

Every two years, the Lamu community in Kenya comes together for the Shela Hat Contest: an event which started out as a light-hearted affair but has evolved into something altogether more political, allowing the community to address issues affecting them via a surprising medium: hat-making. The contest invites members of the community to create a hat using objects found in the local area, which comments on the growing ecological threats they as a community are facing.

‘‘I grew up in Zimbabwe and spent a lot of my childhood in Kenya,’’ says Louise Ford, a stylist who is working to champion the participants of the Shela Hat Contest, which took place in February of this year. ‘‘Founder and friend of the contest, Herbert Menzer, told me about the unique and unprecedented competition, so I saw an opportunity to marry my experience in image-making as a stylist, and sought to collaborate with a fine art photographer who would immortalise the event in a way that would allow us to create a body of work, benefiting the community as a whole.” 

Working closely with photographer Kristen Lee-Moolman, who is from South Africa, the duo have done just that, producing a beautiful series of photographs that capture the participants of this contest and celebrate their intense creativity. Ford and Moolman are now selling these images to raise money for the New Leaf Rehabilitation Centre, which was founded by Showsee Mohammed five years ago and is working to help those affected by drug addiction in Lamu. Here, we speak to the duo about the project as well as their hopes for it.

Gladys Katana Lamu 2020 Kristin-Lee Moolman Louise Ford
Gladys Katana Lamu 2020 Kristin-Lee Moolman Louise Ford

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