This is Omar, I don’t know his last name. I met Omar in Portovenere, Italy, on the July day I photographed these glorious roses left on the altar at St. Peter’s church. Omar was hanging in the nook at the back of the church where you can light candles. I snapped a quick photo of him there, but the church is quite dark already, and there was not enough light for a hand held shot, even at 800 ISO.
Omar and I got to talking and he said he was from Senegal and had come to Italy on a tight budget to attend university. I do not remember (or he might not have said) what his studies were focused on, but I know that his intention was then to return to his village and help make things better. Unless life has led him along other paths, he should be there by now, as this was quite a few years ago.
Omar asked me if I would buy one of his drawings and asked for 5 Euros for one. As it turned out, Omar is a very talented artist, and his pencil drawings represented beautiful detailed scenes from his home village and people. I told him he should ask for more than 5 Euros, but he said he just wanted to go buy himself a sandwich and a bottle of water. I chose one and gave him 20 Euros. He did not want to take it, but I insisted that his work was worth more than 5 Euros. I still have the drawing, though it now is safely packed away in a folder inside a tub with some of my own artwork at the bottom of a pile of other tubs. As soon as I get a chance to dig it up I will scan it and post it here for you to see.
I never met Omar again since that day, of course, and he remains one of those serendipitous encounters in which people come together for a moment to have some small or big impact on each other’s life, or maybe simply for their souls to say “Hi, I remember you from before.” and then move on.
I hope things are well with Omar and his family. And who knows, maybe one of you has run into him, or knows him and can give me an update!
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