Soundscapes from the Sahel I

I took my microphone for a walk yesterday. Making recordings is fun, and listening to them is just as much fun! Hit the play button, sit back or stand tall, make some moves or lye in bed and travel inside your head to wherever… this immediacy is what makes music and sound so cool. In this world of screens and scrolling suddenly it is what you are hearing that is scrolling you. Up and down! I also like the fact that when you make your own recordings, you can actually return to those spaces you visited and to me this experience is very spatial and three-dimensional and the visual memory comes not quite simultaneously but after that first spatial “feeling.” It reminds me of the game I invented when I was small: I would walk our dog in the neighborhood and register every little detail on the route and when back home, I would close my eyes and make that walk again and try to remember all those details. I developed the skill so much that I would re-remember walks that had lasted for over an hour, with street crossings, houses, trees, colors, smells, sand under my feet, strangers and familiar persons I had met and what we said to each other, cracks in the concrete of which I would check the advancement the next time I returned.. to the point that it almost became my second nature to this day.

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Click here to access Soundscapes from the Sahel I

This recording is made of one short walk from home to the sea (I needed the sound of the sea for an upcoming exhibition) and it is filled with human voices, cars, mopeds, sewing machines, sheep, horses, birds, singing, calls for prayer, radio voices, lazy steps, small money in calabashes, carpentry noises… the usual stuff in Saint-Louis and Guet Ndar. And then there is the ocean.

Everything in its raw state, recorded on May 9, 2019 for Get Ndaru Mool and Soundscapes From the Sahel. All rights reserved.

 

The Ocean of Tuonela

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Nappkat © Jarmo Pikkujämsä

The Ocean of Tuonela: Human and Temporal Impacts

The ‘Ocean of Tuonela’ refers to the Underworld, the realm of the dead, in Finnish mythology. It is the title of a multi-artistic exhibition at Bailiff Starcke’s House at Kyrkogatan / Kirkkokatu in Kristinestad / Kristiinankaupunki, Fibnland.

The impact of time and man on our habitat is the overriding theme of the show, which aims to break borders and serve as a wake-up call. The individual works and the exhibition premises, an old wooden building, are in a constant dialogue on current issues related to life, death, power and climate change.

The exhibition allows you to contemplate decaying murals of mess halls in abandoned Soviet-time military bases, the fate of Senegalese fishermen as their environment is being submerged by the ocean waters and the loss of collective memory. The unique historical layers of the building itself naturally add to the experience: the exhibition spaces all tell their own story. Visitors are finally invited to participate in the Last Assembly (Viimeinen kokous).

The Ocean of Tuonela is a complex and intriguing project. The setting naturally brings attention to life in picturesque Kristinestad itself. The exhibition takes a stand and delves into the heart of the soul, but also surprises you with curiosities. Inside the building, visitors will find themselves in the middle of the surging Ocean of Tuonela. They will move in visual landscapes between the real and the unreal. There is always a glimmer of hope.

The exhibition has been realised by the members of the working group Tuonelan tienviitta, established over the course of the past year. Like-minded they may be, but their different personal points of departure and life experiences in different cultural environments bring a richness of perspective. The working group includes:

Marianne Halenius, physician (Kristiinankaupunki)
Kaisu Koivisto, visual artist (Helsinki)
Teijo Laaksonen, restorer (Kristiinankaupunki)
Staffan Martikainen, translator (Brussels / Saint-Louis, Senegal / Kristinestad)
Liisukka Oksa, conservator (Kristiinankaupunki)
Jarmo Pikkujämsä, visual artist and researcher (Saint-Louis, Senegal)

The exhibition is supported by a grant from the Finnish Cultural Fund Southern Ostrobothnia and is open between 17 June and 31 July 2019.

lunch hour by the river

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Lately I have been busy making long term photo projects and I just thought that it would be nice to keep a quick and short photo diary with a series of daily photographs, taken at the same time of the day during a week or so, for starters. The lunch hour seems most convenient for this. Today as I sat in the Galerie Éthiopiques for a couple of hours and attended one of the ongoing exhibitions, I cleaned my camera and took some test shots through the gallery door. Here is one!

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It is the Saint-Louis Jazz Festival weekend and the town is booming with visitors. The famous river boat Bou El Mogdad organized a brunch event this morning with slam and there were lots of people queuing in. They all looked like slammers.

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Sheep are having their lunch in  a house in the southern part of the island of Saint-Louis.

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Late lunch time and the street in front of the prefecture on a quiet Sunday. It is quite rare to see this street so quiet! During weekdays it is very often  congested with cars trying to leave the island. As the Faidherbe bridge (behind the building) has just two lanes, the access to the bridge is a real bottleneck, and the lack of discipline in the Senegalese driving culture is not making it any easier!

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A room with a view. This is what I see first every morning when I open the shutters in my room. If it’s not goats, it is boys squatting in the building next door in a daara who scavenge the trash and spread it around even more, in the early hours of the morning.

Hotel Paradise

Who slept in these round rooms? What shape were their dreams? Did they stay awake, listening to the repeating noise of ocean waves and too early calls for prayers? Or were they soothed by them so much so that they woke up late with heavy limbs?

How many breakfasts, lunches, dinners were made here? How many times did people ask for a bottle of Kirène? How many chickens ended up on porcelain plates, drowned in onion sauce and mustard? Who asked: “Medium or rare?”

Who washed the white napkins over and over again? Where are they now?

How many books were carried in luggage to these round rooms? How many of them were read?

How many children were conceived in these round rooms? Did any of them come here later after they had been born, and swallow pool water while their mothers would burn their skin in the hot afternoon sun?

Did the local teenagers come here in secret to eat snacks during the holy month of Ramadan?

Why was everything so round here?

Is Paradise round?

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The full series has 30 photographs. Hahnemühle archival pigment prints, 16:9 ratio (2019).

 

Evanesce

People come into our lives, and then they go. We are surrounded by persons and things that evanesce, vanish, fade away. This series catches those moments before they turn imperceptible. Are these photographs glimpses of something fleeting before our eyes? Or, are they but vague manifestations of the past in our memory?

Ay nit dañuy dund ci sunu biir ba noppi dem seen yoon. Lépp li ñu wor dafay rombë ni melax, ni mes, seey ba faw. Nataal yi dañuy wone jëf yooyule ni ñuy jaare ci sunu kanam badi seey ci jawu ji. Ndax nataal yi du ñu doon rekk luy nes-nesi ci sunu suufu gët? Walla it ñu doon fattalikub xew-xewu demb ci biir sunu xel?

Evanesce (2019)

Limited edition archival pigment prints on Hahnemühle Gloss Baryta, 30×30 cm.

© jarmo pikkujämsä http://www.jarmopikkujamsa.com

 

Guet Ndaru Mool

In this blog entry I am presenting the work-in-progress of one of my photography series. It’s a collection of photographs from the fishermen’s neighborhood in Guet Ndar in Saint-Louis of Senegal. There will be some updates to this post with more information about the project and links to further reading in the coming weeks so please do come back again!

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Guet Ndaru Mool is primarily a visual essay with portraits that I have produced on fish skin. They represent a community of fishermen who, as a result of climate change, coastal erosion and rising sea levels, are losing their homes and jobs in a world in which the entire traditional and small-scale fishing and fish processing are at stake. These portraits are accompanied by witnessing voices by the persons involved, telling that all this is happening now. Some of these voices can also be heard in a short video that I have shot in Guet Ndar.

I have no words for the alarming info graphics on the rising sea temperatures in this part of the world! Some Western countries and the Chinese – and who not – are snatching the sardines from the plates of the local population by building lucrative fishmeal factories on the shores of Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia. West Africa’s sardinella are joining a worldwide diaspora of sea creatures fleeing as waters warm. The sheer scale of this mass migration dwarfs anything taking place on land: Fish are moving 10 times farther on average than terrestrial animals affected by rising temperatures. More on this can be found in this eye-opening report called Plundering Africa by Reuters.

 

Go small!

In the middle of this spring’s artists’ residency season the house is full of positive work flow and laughter and discussions about life in general, and about being an artist and looking for opportunities to show your work in particular.

Since long time now I preferred very slow processes just because, and I keep reminding myself that it is all about the process. It’s not about sharing my work to the entire world on the social media, because that process easily takes over and interferes with my creative pulses and subconsciously affects my work while it should just be about my love of making things. I had these thoughts just the other day while I was stitching some fabric for a tie dye workshop. I was amused when I realized how little it actually is that you know about what you will be doing at some later stage in your life… who would have thought that I would prefer to sit quietly in the house, listen to my favorite radio station Radio Wassoulou Internationale, and  stitch fabric! It was very relaxing and meditative and while I was at it, I thought I could do this much, much more often and make some surprising patterns and dye these fabrics in various shades of indigo. I was also thinking of Aboubacar Fofana and his impressive textile designs. How often do you seriously stop to think whether you should set sail to a completely new direction in your life?

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© Jarmo Pikkujämsä

Maybe it’s because my recent walking trip in the Mauritanian desert that I seem to have the urge to go smaller and keep it “simple”? I’m thinking of small spaces and work that would fit in them. It’s a good time to keep listening to Radio Wassoulou and be playful with tie dyes, photography and writing, and go smaller for a change.