Dynast Amir aka ‘search for uhuru’ describes himself as an African Curator, Philanthropist, Author and above all a die-hard Pan-Africanist. The consummate visual storyteller, he has gained notoriety for his photos and videos from his travels across Africa, which meticulously document the people, culture, food and his personal experiences.
Dynast actively used his social media to record his journey, sprinkling interviews with locals and ‘political’ commentary along the way. His Instagram grid is exceptionally vibrant and full of life, with varied travel snapshots across the length and breadth of Africa.
We recently had a chance to chat with Dynast. Read on as he shares about his travels and vision of Africa . . .
It has been a privilege to meet and be hosted by Kings and Queens all over Africa
A meeting with Se Majeste Toffa IX at his royal palace in Porto Novo, Benin
Tell us a little bit about yourself . . .
I’m Dynast Amir, born and raised in Sacramento, California and currently based in Atlanta, Georgia. I went to the University of Georgia in Athens. Played football and ran track for the University of Georgia as well. I have a very strong background in sales and that’s what I did in while in corporate America. I recently left corporate America, I guess out of the realization that I would never fulfill my potential to the fullest working on a 9 to 5.
A member of the Ewe delegation from Togo at the Akwasidae Festival in Kumasi, Ghana
With Serigne Abdou Karim Mbacke in Touba, Senegal.
You also go by the tag ‘search for Uhuru’ can you elaborate what it means . . .
‘Uhuru’ is Swahili for freedom. Search for ‘Uhuru’ basically means search for freedom. When I first came to Africa, the first country I went to was Tanzania and after that first visit I wanted to learn more about my roots and where I come from. And in doing so, it would afford me a sense of freedom.
As Black Americans, we’re taught that our origins began when we first got off of slave ships. But, the origins run much deeper than that – way before we got off any slave ships. I wanted to find out the origins of myself, family members, and friends.
Cotonou, Benin. It was fun getting around on my Zim (motorbike).
At the Point of No Return in Ouidah, Benin.
The descendants are beginning to return.
Kids enjoying the Voodoo Festival in Grand Popo, Benin.
Tell us about your travels to the ‘motherland’ . . . Why Africa? Where did you get the inspiration, how did it all start?
I was doing quite well in corporate America so I wanted to take a vacation. I was originally going to go to Brazil, but the person that was going to host me in Brazil let me down, so a good friend of mine Yitshaq Abraham convinced me to go to Tanzania, and I have been hooked ever since.
Zangbeto. What is behind the mask? What makes it move? In Ouidah, Benin, the belief is widespread, that there is no man under the mask, but that the empty construction is empowered by a spirit.
This is the statue of Toussaint Louverture in Allada, Benin. Toussaint’s roots are from Allada. Toussaint led Haiti in the Haitian Revolution a slave rebellion in which the Haitians defeated Napoleans French army and gained its independence. Toussaint was one of the greatest military generals to ever live.
I have to say, the Voodoo Festival in Allada, Benin is by far my favorite.
How many countries in Africa have you been to?
About 12. Tanzania, Kenya, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Liberia, Namibia and South Africa
Nigeria. I think Nigeria is the most diverse country on the continent that I have visited so far. Everything from the people, nightlife to the culture, Nigeria pretty much has everything.
Best culture (your opinion)?
Benin and Nigeria
Hands down, Senegal has the best food on this planet!!!
Thieboudienne my favorite dish when in Senegal.
BBQ Lamb, Chips,Salad,Carrots…..Se
You also seem to savor a lot of Africa’s street food. What do you say to those who believe African street food is dirty and unhygienic?
In regards to African street food being ‘unhygienic’, you will be surprised how dirty and nasty these so called 5 star restaurants are, especially their kitchens compared to what you are eating on the street. Street food is also less expensive, yeah and some of it may look ‘dirty’ or ‘unhygienic’ but a lot of these restaurants especially these 5 star restaurants that you spend top dollar, you will be surprised how their kitchens are just as filthy if not worse.
Eating some street food in Ouidah, Benin with my bro Rhoo. Turkey in a tomato sauce with rice.
Nigerians in America don’t wrap the Suya in paper that’s why it doesn’t taste as good as the Suya in Naija. It’s not real Suya if it’s not wrapped in paper.
Any countries in Africa you’ve always wanted to explore, but haven’t yet had the opportunity/time?
Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tourism in Africa is by and large centered on wildlife safari, beach destinations, and adventure travel. You however seem to buck the trend . . .
I prefer to interact with the people and embrace the culture. You are not going to experience that by just staying on the beach or staring at giraffes and lions on a safari. So I recommend going to the cities and visiting the villages for that is the only way you are going to experience the people and the culture.
The Asantehene Otumfuor Osei Tutu II at the Akwasidae Festival today in Kumasi.
At the Akwasidae Festival in Kumasi, Ghana
Street vendor in Touba, Senegal
Egungun Yoruba masquerades or masked costumed figures
The Baye Fall making Dhikr in the streets of Dakar, Senegal
Judging from Instagram and the numerous black travel platforms, Black Americans, particularly millennials, seem to have taken to worldwide travel with gusto. You will notice the diverse and varied destinations but conspicuously bypassing African countries. What could be the reason? Failure to reach out to black Americans on our (Africans) part? Misconceptions about Africa?
The issue with the whole ‘Africa does not market itself’, or ‘Africa has not reached out to black America’, these other countries (outside Africa) also do not reach out to black Americans. They do not market to black Americans and in fact a lot of these countries you will find elements of anti-blackness. I think it is just an irony that we complain about racism in America but then we travel to the most racist countries on the planet outside America versus going to Africa. You cannot discount the misconceptions and stereotypes as well. A lot of us are still using 70’s and 80’s stereotypes to justify not going to Africa.
I also noticed White people have no issue coming to Africa and are visiting in droves. Like on a recent trip to Togo, my flight from Newark to Lome, Togo was about 30% white and my connecting flight from Lome to Cotonou, Benin, the majority of the flight was white.
Sunset in Elmina, Ghana
Côte d’Ivoire – the largest producer of raw Cocoa beans in the world. Hopefully Africa can start producing its own chocolate bars in mass.
At the Osun Festival in Osogbo, Nigeria, enjoying the culture.
At the Oduduwa Monument in Ile Ife. If you are ever in Nigeria, you have to visit Ile Ife.
Africa is dangerous, full of diseases, backward, full of wars, famines, a sh*t hole and all sorts of ills that are associated with the continent. As one who has visited and experienced different countries in the continent, what do you say to people who believe that the above rings true?
I am personally on a mission to change the misconception of Africa, spreading its awareness—showing people that Africa is not what you see on TV.
America in my opinion is way more dangerous than Africa. And as far as poverty, the worst poverty I have witnessed is here in America an area called Skid Row in Los Angeles, California. You do not see tent cities and people sleeping on the street in Africa that’s rare. Everyone has a home they go to. As far as war and famines I haven’t witnessed none in my travels.
How has the reception to your travel stories been? Do you feel you are changing perceptions?
The reception has been overwhelming. People are emailing me every other day telling me how I have helped and influenced them to want to travel to Africa. It is great to know that I am making an impact on people.
Sipping tea with a Masai Elder in Kiserian, Kenya
Dogon in Mali is one of the Epicenters of African spirituality.
Got some custom Kente Chucks made while I was in Ghana.
The girls were waiting receive Daagbo at the entrance to his palace.
Smiling faces in Oyo, Nigeria
What would you like people to know about Africa that the media rarely shows? Something Americans hardly know about Africa . . .
Whatever you have access here in America you can also access it in Africa that is something that many people do not know. Basically the luxuries that you have in America are also available in Africa.
A major issue is that travel to Africa is expensive. From your experience is Africa really that expensive? What about the day to day expenses like food and accommodation . . .
I travel pretty much like a local therefore everything is inexpensive for example I eat the street food instead of restaurants. And then you can always find deals as far as airline tickets go. I just tell people if you have $1500 – $2000 (which is inclusive of the air ticket) you will be more than have a comfortable stay in whichever country you are visiting.
Lac Rose better known as Pink Lake, in Dakar Senegal.
The King of Grand Popo, Benin at the Voodoo Festival in Grand Popo.
Food Vendors at the Voodoo Festival in Grand Popo, Benin.
One of the fruit vendors in Ouidah, Benin. The plus about Africa, is the food is always fresh. Affordable and healthy food is always accessible.
Let’s digress a bit from travel. What is your take on the ‘schisms’ (real or perceived) between African Americans and Continental Africans. What can be done to bridge the divide?
The divide, mainly between African immigrants in the States and African Americans is that we are fed lots of misinformation about each other by third parties who do not have our best interest at heart. There’s been a deliberate effort to keep Africa and African Americans disconnected. I believe us coming together, sitting down and having genuine conversations can bridge the divide.
My guide and brother Mikael in Dogon country.
Finally tell us how travel to the continent has impacted you. Any future plans? Words of Advice?
When it comes to impact, there are people I have met in the journey who have really left an indelible mark on me, from hosting me to advice, looking out for me to helping me out whenever I needed assistance. I am especially grateful to all the people who have helped me along my journeys.
Future plans . . . owning land, relocating to Africa, buying homes, contributing to the continent, building it and adding value as well. It’s time to build it is high time Africans and African Americans came together.
The Baye Fall at The Grand Magal in Touba, Senegal.
Took this snapshot at a Party at Serigne Barras House in Touba, Senegal.
Africa Is the Present and the Future and if you are ever in Abidjan check out the Bushman Cafe and Hotel.
Whether you’re planning a trip to Africa or just want to know more about the motherland, fuel your wanderlust or to live vicariously through his posts, check out Dynast on his social media on Facebook @searchforuhuru, Instagram @searchforuhuru, YouTube Search For Uhuru plus follow him on Twitter @searchforuhuru.