On the island of Providenciales, Turks & Caicos in the Bahamas you will find the place that Marisa Shearer (born Findlay) and her family call home. Daughter to a Zambian businessman and a British mother she grew up in Lusaka but later moved to the UK to complete her studies. There she eventually took the plunge and turned her passion for photography into a business with the focus on lifestyle and women. Many years later Marisa was also the one who introduced me to photography and taught me the basics through a workshop she held in Lusaka. And she has been my mentor ever since. She has done a number of jobs in Zambia and has been published more than once in magazines such as Bulletin&Record and Nkwazi. But for Marisa photography is not merely about taking pictures:
“I love the opportunity of meeting someone new, discovering their personality and then the challenge of capturing their portrait in an image. Beauty comes from inside and I love creating a safe space for this to shine through and be captured.”
Have you been able to keep the passion for photography after turning it into your bread and butter? Any advice how to keep the fire burning?
“My passion for photography hasn’t dampened since turning it into a career. If anything it has taken my passion to another level by stretching me past what I thought I could do with a camera and encouraging me to learn more. I think it’s always important to keep doing personal projects to keep the passion alive and to ensure that you’re still photographing things that you want. I think also making sure that you are photographed so that you are documented in moments helps to reignite the passion for why images are so meaningful. Remembering the gift of photography.”
In April 2014 she moved with her soul mate Edward and their little daughter Yara to the island nation of Turks & Caicos where Edward spent most of his upbringing. This is where I feel I can really relate to Marisa, both of us having settled far from family in new and very different places from our birth nations.
What has it meant for you living in the diaspora?
“When people hear my accent and ask me where I’m from I’m always proud to tell them that I’m Zambian and most of the time I have to explain to them where Zambia is. It really annoys me when I say it’s in southern Africa and they say ‘oh I know South Africa’. I’m certainly proud to call myself Zambian. I love Zambia, growing up there was one of the most amazing experiences. Such kind and friendly people and a chance to grow up very protected. The Lusaka that I grew up in is very different to the Lusaka today. I think I will always yearn for that quieter city. In a way I think that is why Turks & Caicos appeals to me so much – a quiet and slow paced town to raise a family.”
On becoming a mother Marisa says:
“Becoming a mother has definitely been one of my greatest challenges! And in the same breath also the best thing that has ever happened to me. I had no idea what was really involved in becoming a mother – the sense of sacrifice of the life that I knew and the levels of patience that I would need to find on a daily basis. I am quite an introverted person that loves my self-time, so having to be available 24/7 as a mother was a bit of a shock to the system. The experience has challenged me to grow as a person and I much prefer the person that I have allowed myself to become now than the person that I was before becoming a mother.”
Fresh out of college Marisa travelled to India where she completed a Yoga teaching course. However, it was only after moving to T&C she took the opportunity to begin teaching the practice. She now teaches a couple of different classes at two separate studios.
Yoga is a big part of your life, how has it changed you?
“In every way, I first came across a yoga class when I was at university in Manchester, UK. I loved the class from the first moment I experienced it and there was something about it that kept bringing me back there every week. It was the only place that I found I could quiet out the noise in my mind and be completely in the present moment. In a nut shell yoga has helped me discover who I am and work with who I am on a daily basis. Teaching yoga has further fueled my love and passion for yoga.”
Does it affect all areas of your life?
“Absolutely! The poses that I do, which are challenging on the mat, are a training ground for the experiences in life that I will meet, which are also challenging. It helps me have compassion for myself and other people. It helps me know and understand my body so that in every moment off my mat I can still apply that inquiring mind to check in with how I’m feeling and then apply this mindfulness to the action I then take. This doesn’t always happen and is something I continue to work on.”
Is it a spiritual practice for you or do you have a secular approach?
“Yoga can be whatever I want and need in the moment. Sometimes it’s more of a physical practice that helps to stretch and open my body and release any pain or tension. Other times it’s a quieter and deeper space that I find on the mat that helps me open to deeper and higher parts of myself.”
Last year Marisa launched her new lifestyle blog called “At Home With Malita”. Malita is not just her middle name but also her Zambian great grandmother who was a healer. Here you find categories such as Womanhood, Parenting and Spirituality and in her own words the blog is about:
“Healthy eating, yoga, meditation, simplicity parenting and the wisdom of my female body.”
How did your lifestyle blog come about?
“When I started my photography blog in 2012, I discovered my love of being able to write something and instantly be able to share my thoughts with the world. As time went on, life happened and lessons were learnt. There were more and more things that I wanted to write, yet I knew that the platform of my photography blog wasn’t the right place to share them. The ideas kept coming, so I decided to start a separate blog that provides me free reign to write whatever I want. I sadly never met Malita, however have always felt very connected to her spirit. I decided to call the blog At Home With Malita as a way of honouring the wisdom of my ancestors as well as describing a space for my readers to hang out which helps them reconnect with the place inside of themselves that feels like home – full of peace, tranquility and happiness.”
On her blog Marisa writes about things close to her heart and that includes menstruation cups, meditation and her favourite soup recipe. I have been following the blog from the get go and I truly feel I have gotten to know Marisa through the blog.
You are very personal on your blog, does that ever make you feel vulnerable?
“There is definitely vulnerability in everything that I share. I know that everyone doesn’t have the same views as myself and that some of the things I write about may challenge people’s beliefs. I value deeply any post that I have ever read on the Internet where someone has shared something personal, their journey to healing and their intention to share with the hope that it may touch the life of someone that needs it. I write with this same intention and it helps transform the vulnerability into a desire to inspire and perhaps help make someone’s experience of life a little more pleasurable.”
Do you feel a connection to your roots through your writing?
“I definitely feel connected to myself through writing. My roots lie in both Zambia and the UK. I feel that there is so much information that has been lost or buried over the generations and through my research and writing I hope to uncover a wealth and abundance of knowledge.”
And I just have to ask what I always get asked…. Any chance of ever moving back?
“I feel in life that I never know what is around the corner. I can only make decisions based on how I feel in the moment. The ideal life for me would be to have the best of many worlds – homes in T&C, the UK and Zambia. That way I get to enjoy everything I love about them all. My heart will always lie in my beloved Zambia and now that I have left the UK, after fifteen years of living there, I realize that a big part of me yearns for the big green open pastures and four seasons in one day.”
One day I will visit Marisa and practice Yoga with her in the sunset on the beach! In the meantime, I’m grateful for the internet that lets me keep in touch with her. Namaste!