Afropolis expo: a teaser

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A first milestone in my Afropolis photo project: a work-in-progress exhibition. I framed twelve prints last night to show what I am working on. This small show is combining some sleek-looking photos and rough handmade and “unfinished” frames made out of old windows that are very easy to come by here in Saint-Louis. Doing this show has helped me a lot in both choosing the photos that I want to include in later exhibitions and defining the theme or themes that this project will bring forward. These twelve photos were taken in Addis Ababa and once I will have more material from the other cities – Dakar, Nouakchott and Bamako – these themes will certainly develop more in the process. For now I can say that visually I hope to capture some of the contrasts of neighborhoods that are human in size and “organic” against the modern construction boom with glass and steel buildings reaching up in the skies, and human activity characterized by informality that takes place in between these two dynamics. More of that later with more photos!

Ndar Ndar Music & Café, Saint-Louis: A work-in-progress photo exhibition “Afropolis 2020” with a focus on African urban space: Addis Ababa. The final exhibition material will be made in platinum prints in summer 2020.

My organic Midsummer

Anthotype_June 2019_Jarmo Pikkujamsa
© jarmo pikkujamsa

One of my neighbor’s sheep has just been immortalized on a leaf! My other “sheep on grass” anthotypes did not succeed as nicely just because after one week’s exposure under the Finnish sun the grass had started to roll instead of staying flat. I had sandwiched the grass and the positives in an improvised developing frame that just wasn’t tight enough. Nevertheless, I am excited, and in a couple of days we shall see how my organic selfies and some other photos turn out. Fingers crossed that there will be more sunny days in the coming week.

PS. In case you are wondering what “anthotype” is: it’s an environmentally friendly photo process where all you need to make a print is the photosensitive material of plants, sunshine and time!

Update on July 1 – My organic selfies were badly damaged because of a rainy night so much so that water had reached and soaked the leaves. The only hermetically closed frame that survived had the image of another sheep, see below. I really like this process and will experiment with anthotypes again a little later when back in Senegal, where the rains are not such a bother!

Anthotype_June 2019_2 copy

Fishermen on Dry Land

In connection with the current collective exhibition The Ocean of Tuonela (18 June – 31 July) where my series of portraits on fish skin and prints from the series Guet Ndaru Mool are on show, here is another short series of photographs in the same spirit.  This particular series is called Nappkat, which means simply “Fisherman” in Wolof and which I had made already earlier in 2018.

I thought I had come to an end photographing the lives of fishermen in Saint-Louis but it seems that I may well keep working on that theme in some other ways, as documenting life where I live is what I do. I am soon starting a new long term project with photography and sound on urban environment and Saint-Louis being very much urban, fishermen will evidently be part of the project, one way or another.

Image transfers on wood, 30×42 cm.

And here’s some ambience from the actual exhibition, which is not only about your works on the walls but the walls themselves, those fantastic walls!

Unremitting evanescence

In the middle of our summer residency programme, I am showing some of my work again at the Old Customs House in Kristiinankaupunki during 10-20 June. This magnificent wooden house was build in 1680 and it is a fantastic environment for shows, standing against the constantly changing, disappearing, regenerating nature of our environment.

I have named this series of photographs Evanesce with the emphasis of action rather than a state or a situation, reflecting my constant experience of change and the ephemeral nature of things and light I see around me. Are these images now corresponding to my way of remembering these people, these objects? That is what I am asking myself.

Works: 30×30 cm and 21×29 cm. Prints on Japanese handmade paper; underwater photography; transfers on organic surfaces; mixed media.

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.

Vivre !

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I am very 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.

Jarmo Pikkujamsa_Dapper 2019_7
Guet Ndaru Mool © Jarmo Pikkujamsa

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 the exile. 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, Julie Robineau, Rolook, Saan, Zara Samiry, Hamed Traore and Pierre Vanneste.

Texture diary

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.

Saint-Louis I

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!

Dire Dawa

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!

Saint-Louis II

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?

Ngor

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!

Saint-Louis III

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.