05 October 2012 by Denise Slabbert

The world according to Lola ...

Q&A with Lola Akerstrom, 1 of 3 National Geographic photographers in South Africa as part of South African Tourism and National Geographic’s latest ‘Through the Lens’ campaign.

Akerstrom captures the warm smile of a little girl in rural Zululand

Born in Nigeria, based in Stockholm  Lola Akerstrom is an award-winning writer and photographer who recently visited KwaZulu-Natal as part of National Geographic and South African Tourism's 'Through the Lens' campaign. We caught up with her for a quick session of Q&A.


Surfers walk the beach Surfers walk the beach


What were you expecting from South Africa?
Honestly, I travelled to South Africa with no preconceived expectations because I wanted to naturally and organically soak up each moment as I travelled all over KwaZulu-Natal. Before I travel to any country, I usually read up on its culture and any other nuances I need to aware of so I can respectfully travel through the place. Other than that, I just travel. South Africa blew me away aesthetically, especially Durban's rich diversity, KwaZulu-Natal's photogenic rolling hills, vibrant Zulu culture, and the warmth of its people.


Akerstrom met lots of colourful characters along the way Akerstrom met lots of colourful characters along the way


What was the most surprising thing for you about South Africa?
Africans are naturally warm and inviting people and I knew as long as I respected people's cultures, their lifestyles, and showed genuine interest in their everyday lives, they would naturally want to invite me in and share their stories with me. But what really surprised me about South Africa, especially KwaZulu-Natal, was its panoramic landscapes. Absolutely jaw-droppingly beautiful as we turned each corner. Lush rolling green hills to gum trees in perfect lines to cows grazing to villages dotting the landscape like sprinkles on cupcakes, KwaZulu-Natal's scenery was unreal – in a good way. I wanted to jump out every kilometre to just take photos upon photos.

KwaZulu-Natal’s scenery was unreal – in a good way. I wanted to jump out every kilometre to just take photos upon photos.


Where did you visit and which was your favourite?
I spent sometime in multicultural Durban, visiting its spice markets and legendary beachfront. I also got to explore the surrounding regions, visiting historic sites in Isandlwana, soaking up Zulu culture in Esowhe, making lots of stops along the way in KwaZulu-Natal.


Spices on offer in Durban Spices on offer in Durban


But one of my favourite places I visited was actually the village right behind the walls of Shakaland. I was drawn to the sounds and laughter of children playing, so I went behind the fence to find children playing a game using stacked tin cans. The joy they were emitting was natural, and it's something I'll never forget. I got to join in their game and hang around the village for about 40-45 minutes, just soaking it all in.

Where else in South African would you want to explore?
I would love to explore South Africa inch by inch, if I have the opportunity. From various wildlife reserves to learning more about the country's history in Johannesburg, to exploring vibrant Cape Town, I only scratched the surface of South Africa's beauty with KwaZulu-Natal, which has only left me wanting more. Now I truly understand why friends and family members who've spent time in South Africa always rave about it.

What would you say to travellers who want to visit South Africa?
Come with an open mind. South Africa is so multi-layered that you probably won't be able to enjoy it all in one visit. And that's perfectly okay. Just another reason to keep coming back.

Akerstrom visited traditional Zulu homesteads Akerstrom visited traditional Zulu homesteads


Category: Culture & History

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