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?
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.
I am so happy to be part of this upcoming photo exhibition organized by Fondation Dapper under the title Vivre !
My series Guet Ndaru Mool is a photo 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.
Three of my portraits from this series are on show in Gorée, and the entire series includes a video with talks by the fishermen involved in the project.
I was a fisherman in Nouadhibou since 1995 so for 11 years. For a year I was an apprentice captain and for a year I worked as a captain first at 30 km, then 200 km from the coast. My brother-in-law owned a six-meter boat with a four-horse machine. The time I spent in Nouadhibou meant only danger. Every year there are many people who die at the intersection of the river and the ocean and for example when you throw a net you can also get killed. There are so many risks, you can easily lose your hand. When you fish in the night it’s dark and you do not even know if someone falls into the water and drowns. And when you catch a lot of fish, the boat fills up too much and overturns. There are too many dangers. There is also exploitation. Fishing requires strength, luck and speed. If you do not have them, you can perish. I experienced all this and I saw people die before my eyes. When I returned I stopped. After my return I learned that there is also other work than fishing. (M. Dieng)
The exhibition Vivre !presents 34 photographs of resilience, or the “art of navigating between torrents .” The incredible capacity of human beings to cope with a difficult situation is thus approached in four sub-themes related to Africa and its diasporas: the social approach, the environment, the questioning and theexile.Through the prism of their objective, the selected artists question the contemporary world and its evolution.Each of them offer us in their own way while resonating with each other a reading of the current society that transcends borders.
The exhibition presents works of 15 photographers living in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean or the Indian Ocean: Christian Barbé, Karim Barka, Philippe Gaubert, Moussa Kalapo, Fototala King Massassy, Ziad Naitaddi, Zacharie Ngnogue and Chantal Edie, Jarmo Pikkujämsä, JulieRobineau, Rolook, Saan, Zara Samiry, Hamed Traore and Pierre Vanneste.
Pohjois-Senegalin Saint-Louis’n saarella huijaripapit, aaveet, siirtomaaherrat ja ruumiita joesta sukeltava Seydou tutustuttavat lukijansa kaupungin värikkääseen arkeen ja valaisevat tarinoillaan millaista on asua Senegal-joen varrella ja välillä joen uumenissakin. Kalastajistaan ja siirtomaa-ajan historiastaan tunnetun saaren suulliseen perinteeseen nojaavat tarinat päätyvät harvoin kirjoihin ja kansiin, puhumattakaan että niitä voisi lukea suomeksi. Nyt se on mahdollista!
Saaren eteläisissä kortteleissa Ameth Fall-koulun vieressä asui nainen nimeltä Djemb Samb. Kerran, kun hän oli vielä pieni tyttö, hänen äitinsä lähetti hänet heittämään roskia jokeen. Kun Djemb Samb saapui joen rantaan, hän näki siellä vanhan rouvan istumassa penkillä. Kun tyttö lähestyi vanhaa rouvaa, joen henki Mame Coumba Bang tiesi tytön läsnäolon vaikka katsoi ihan muualle. Hän käänsi katseensa Djemb Sambin suuntaan ja päästi suupielestään ciipatuu-maiskahduksen tyttöä kohti. Kohta tämän jälkeen joen henki sukelsi penkkeineen jokeen ja katosi veden syvyyksiin. Tästä päivästä alkaen Djemb Sambin suu vääntyi vinoon asentoon, eikä hän koskaan onnistunut saamaan lapsia.
Kun joen henki teki Djemb Sambille ciipatuun, tytön olisi pitänyt päästää ciipatuu suustaan saman tien takaisin joen hengen suuntaan. Jos hän olisi tehnyt niin, hänelle ei olisi käynyt kuinkaan.
Nasille ei käynyt näin köpelösti. Siihen aikaan, kun joen vesi oli makeaa, Nasi pesi pyykkiä joen rannassa vanhan höyrynosturin vieressä. Pyykätessä hän huomasi joen hengen Mame Coumba Bangin tulevan häntä kohti ja tuijottavan häntä tiukasti. Kun Mame Coumba Bang oli tullut Nasin luokse, hän teki Nasille ciipatuun, ja Nasi vastasi takaisin päästämällä suupielestään mehevän ja vielä äänekkäämmän ciipatuun joen hengelle Mame Coumba Bangille sillä seurauksella, että tämä kääntyi kannoillaan ja katosi jokeen.
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Eräänä iltana nuori mies oli joen rannassa höyrynosturin takana. Hän oli siellä tarpeillaan ja oli asettunut kyykkyyn niin, että takapuoli osoitti joelle päin. Kun hän oli hoitanut asiansa ja oli pesemässä takamustaan, hän tunsi kuinka joesta ilmestyi käsi, joka auttoi häntä kyseisessä toimenpiteessä.
Nuorimies oli seota siihen paikkaan!
Tästä päivästä lähtien aina kun mies muisteli tapahtunutta, hän sai hulluuskohtauksen.
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Teos (114 s.) sisältää noin 50 valokuvaa Saint-Louis’n kaupunkimiljööstä ja tarinoissa esiintyvistä yksityiskohdista.
Tarinat: Idrissa Diallo. Suomennos ja valokuvat: Jarmo Pikkujämsä. Ilmestymisajankohta: maaliskuu 2019. ISBN: 978-952-69023-0-2
Late Afternoon Publishing kustantaa valokuvakuvateoksia, graafisia novelleja ja fiktiota Afrikasta ja Afrikan diasporasta. Senegal-sarjan seuraava osa on tämän teoksen wolofinkielinen versio Ci Biir Dexu Senegal.
I found some old photos floating in one folder that I had named “miscellaneous”. You know the type of dumping folder that serves for a long term graveyard for those shots you do not know what to do with and yet you don’t want to toss them in the bin either. These ones have something in common: they are all close ups of surfaces. Not very typical of me as I have always been more inclined to take photos of people.
These were made without any particular series or project in mind. For some reason these surfaces and textures and colors had a strong appeal me and now it’s clearly another form of “long term diary” of places that I read when I watch them. The interesting thing here is how just about any image, even the most abstract one – has the power to develop into a story – whether imagined afterwards or something that really happened and had a wider connection to your life at the time when the photo was taken. To open up those contexts with these photos, please read on. I named these photos by their locations.
Inspired by an exhibition where I saw one visually stunning screening of a video set up on a large mosquito net, I once attempted to photograph something through a net but did not really put my mind to it properly and abandoned the whole thing, too soon. I thought it just didn’t work out. Yet. I might try some tricks later on so better keep the photo as a reminder…
The Dogon Country
I don’t remember where exactly I took this photo, except that it was on one of my trips in Mali when we were going around the country meeting people who work in crafts cooperatives. This is the ceiling of a place where we had a short break for a tea. Buildings in mud are fantastic, they make me feel I am an earthling. And Mali is simply a pearl!
A close up of a pan that is called Mankeshikesha in Amharic. I bought it on the Kefira market in Dire Dawa so that I would be able to roast coffee in Saint-Louis on the rooftop (because roasting produces a lot of smoke). I did it a few times with this pan but abandoned it and started to use another, more practical one. I forgot the pan under a bougainvillea for many months in the merciless tropics and the next time I saw it, it had turned beautiful yellow and orange. I was so happy to see this that I made another art work out of painted metal sheets that I left exposed to the sun for a long time. I sprinkled them every now and then with all sorts of media and abracadabra! They ended up first in an exhibition and after that somewhere in Sweden. I still have this pan!
More metal. This shot is from one of the local metal workshop round the corner. I admire all kinds of workshops where people make things by their hands. Welding and noisy stuff happens there day in, day out. The wonderful thing is that there is almost no work that they cannot do! Here’s a perspective: the so called developed countries have abandoned to large degree the knowledge of crafts. Everything related to manual work these days is overpriced, outsourced to distant poorer countries with cheaper labor, or it is practically non-existent. It’s painfully hard to find a handyman in a throw-away culture. Here i.e. in Saint-Louis of Senegal, on the other hand, whenever you need something you can start by designing it yourself and someone will make it for you out of the materials available. We have had a spiral staircase made out of metal, as well as a gas roaster for coffee. And so many other smaller projects. How neat is that?
You are looking at the skin of a swordfish that was caught by one of the local restaurants running a fishing club and dragged ashore one day in Ngor in Dakar. It had a fantastic shiny deep blue color that unfortunately does not show in this photo. I may have post edited the photo anyway for some purposes. Fish is good, and their skin makes beautiful sandals. It’s a pity that their skin is not exploited here to their full potential. Yet. Though unfortunately fish meal factories and industrial fishing is killing the local artisanal fishing!
The process itself becomes the art work. This piece of plywood was covered in old indigo that had lost most of its blue power. It so happened that I forgot the dye on the wood for too long before rinsing it out – must have been because of someone at the door interrupting my creative process – so eventually I left it as it is. The thing I like about natural indigo is that it is very blue and yes, it’s natural! And here I was completely taken by surprise with the “tired indigo” color. It has lead me to experiment with other organic surfaces and dyes too.
This is a selection of my favorite shots from my first ever underwater series called Deep. They were all made in 2018 and I am now moving on towards more abstract and night photography as well as simply shoot movement, my all time favorite topic, under water. This coming summer I plan to set up a shooting in a pool or at sea for just anybody who might be interested. You are all invited to have your portrait made!
Some photographs stay with you always. I am not talking about actual prints in a shoe box but photos that you stored in some laptop, external memory or cloud and you forgot all about it up until it starts to pop back into your memory and you need to dig it up again and have a look. I took this photo in Ahmed Ela in Northern Ethiopia many years ago while sitting in a moving car and coming from or going to Dallol, I don’t even remember. But there are two things I do remember when I look at it. I remember what it felt like to be in that open space where there is nothing but distant horizon opening in all directions. It’s that fantastic feeling that takes over every time I am in a desert when you realize what a tiny little ant-like your life actually is on this planet. You may be going to places back and forth, you’re being dragged into social whatever drama, you climb some ladder you think you must climb, you want things that you have been taught to want… and so on and then you come to a place like this and everything starts to make sense again. I just love open wide space and the fact that you can look and see far away.
The other thing is that mysterious “highway” in the photo. It looks like a mirage, inviting you to take that road to.. where? Nowhere? Most likely somewhere north towards Eritrea. We left that chance to some other trip though. Oh and there’s also a third memory: it’s that sound when you walk in the heat of the day on that crispy salt, as this soil is nothing but salt that the Afar collect and bring back to urban environment on the backs of camels. If you have seen the Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara’s song Nterini you get the idea of what this place looks like. If you ever wanted to shoot a science fiction film, this is the place! A side note: this clip, quite typically to music videos, has a wee bit too many fancy juggles and fast paced cuts in it, this location would do the trick in a few long shots alone since it’s such a stunning scenery.
Ethiopia has been on my mind lately since we are in the planning mode for a future art residency in Ethiopia. The Dallol desert and the Danakil Depression might prove to be rather challenging environments so we’ll stick to the opposite and run the programme in buzzing Addis Ababa and in the magical town of Harar. Stay tuned!
I have a t-shirt with a photo of Patrice Lumumba and every time I wear it, my friends in Senegal ask: who is that man? He was an independence leader and the first Prime Minister of the independent Democratic Republic of the Congo and was assassinated on this day, 17 January 1961.
A week ago I found this street sign in Ixelles by accident, at the other end of the street that is better known under the name of Rue de Longue Vie. If you look closer, you can see that this new sign has been glued on the official street name. Ironically, Lumumba did not have the chance to have a long life! If you also check the area on Google Maps, you can find a square that honors his name, as well as a Library called Bibliothèque Lumumba* on Rue de la Tulipe. The library is open on appointment only, which is a shame as it has an interesting collection of books related to the Congo and the region. It is run by an association that has been actively promoting local recognition of Lumumba by insisting on having a Square Patrice Lumumba close to metro Porte de Namur and a Futur Place Lumumba right behind the Church Saint-Boniface in the heart of Ixelles. The library is hosted by a very welcoming man Philip Buyck, an active member of the association, who would love to open the library on a more permanent basis. He is also one of the initiators of Matonge Art Gallery Project that transforms some of the neighborhood’s restaurants and other venues into galleries showing works by famous Congolese painters and photographers.
There is an exhibition called Congolisation coming up at Pianofabriek** on 7 to 10 February. It’s the fourth edition of the Afro-Diaspo-Arts Made In Belgium festival. There you just might stop by a giant molar among the artworks. What’s the story? A few years ago there was a documentary on the Belgian TV explaining that one of the members of the team that executed Lumumba and later exhumed his body claimed to have saved two of his teeth, while the remains of his body were dissolved in sulfuric acid. Inspired by these macabre events, Hugo Claus wrote the original poem on the teeth of Lumumba in French and there is now a wiki*** in which the poem has been translated into several other languages. If you wish, you may take part!
The teeth of Lumumba
Lumumba, the god of the Albinos
sat down on your corps as on a toilet »
I wrote thirty years ago in a poem,
and only now it slowly comes to light
how Lumumba was destroyed.
How the Belgian police inspector Gerard Soete
worked the body with a saw and sulfuric acid.
« Until nothing remains, » he says.
He ripped out two golden teeth and kept them.
« As a souvenir » he says. When he was eighty
He swung them in the North Sea.
Soete, illiterate, butchery mercenary,
think of the Argonauts who sailed in the Mediterranean
looking for the Golden Fleece.
They tore the teeth from the mouth of the Dragon
and sowed them in the sand
and from the teeth grew one hundred warriors
with axes and spears
and they lined up in rows.
And this night they come screaming by your bed.