As a child I was warned by this terrible creature that lived in the depths of the nearby river. It would snatch children with his long white arm and eat them. In winter, when my uncles took me to skate or sledge ride with our dog on the river, I was secretly terrified to know that we had but some ice and snow between us and this creature. I could almost see it gliding under the ice right below us and follow us and it was just a matter of time when it would find the opportunity to break the ice so that it would clutch me. This creature was called Näkki.
The Senegal river has its own stories, of which I will publish a photography book later in 2018. Being in Saint-Louis means that you are always in contact with both the Senegal river and the Atlantic ocean and with all the buzz related to fishing. The number of different types of fish is dizzying to begin with – and at times it’s also confusing as the names of different types of fish sometimes depend on who’s saying! You have sipakh, diané, coty, talar, thiof… and many others, not to mention hammerhead sharks or cuttlefish and what not. I am fascinated and quickly absorbed by what is happening around me here: the fishermen prepare their pirogues and leave, or return with their catch, they occupy entire streets to fix their nets, walk on the beach and into the rough sea up to their armpits and set their nets, or throw their nets in the river; there are also carpenters making new pirogues or fixing old ones, welders working on motors, horse carts carrying stuff back and forth between Goxum Bacc and Ndar Toute neighborhoods, boat painters, immense areas where fish is being dried, ice factories, freezer vans and trucks of all sizes, and then of course the fish market frenzy, especially upon the return of the boats..
I have now come to a point where it’s time to show some of my work in this series on Guetndarian fishermen and their boats. A fantastic opportunity to do so opens in June in Kristiinankaupunki (Finland) where we will be running a one-month long artists’ residency and several exhibitions by our guest artists. I know that Nappkat is a series that I will keep alive for as long as I stay in Saint-Louis so I will always make more and more photographs on this topic. The vibrancy of it is not letting me go just yet!