This is a short series of b&w memories from our last Analogue Extreme programme in early 2019, a desert trek in Mauritania organized for artists and creatives by Waaw Centre for Art and Design. It was a week full of laughter, beautiful scenery between Chinquetti and Tergit, camels, haikus, even a sand storm and some blisters… all in all a magnificent week feeling fully connected to your environment, away from digital life.
To my surprise I realize now that my Olympus OM10 may have had its better days: it apparently leaves scratches on film that you can see in all photos. I may still have to test this and see if it’s really time to find a new solution to shooting film.
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.
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!
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.
Sheep are having their lunch in a house in the southern part of the island of Saint-Louis.
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!
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.
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?
Limited edition archival pigment prints on Hahnemühle Gloss Baryta, 30×30 cm.
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.
“One of the characteristics that I like the most among the Guetndariens is that they are in solidarity with each other. If you have a fight with someone from Guet Ndar, it’s like fighting against the whole village!
During the regatta, fishermen often fight each other by slapping their opponents with oars.But when the regatta is over, they make reconciliation just like nothing happened.The fishermen of Guet Ndar are a great bunch!”*
*Text from Waxande Dex Gi – Stories from the Senegal River, one of my upcoming publications on Saint-Louis and its oral heritage.
This is a series of four short entries in which I talk about my personal relationship, both imagined and concrete, to four African megalopolis: Lagos, Kinshasa, Addis Ababa and Dakar. The first one out: Lagos.
What are your touching grounds to a city? What images circle at the back of your retinas when you hear the word Lagos? To me, it’s all very vague and my mind wanders immediately to just about anything I happen know about Nigeria that is based on a real experience. Such things include the music of Fela Kuti, and a fairly recent and somewhat surprising visit of a group of Nigerian musicians playing Yoruba music in Saint-Louis. Or the British candid camera and street comedy by Three Non-Blondes. When I was still running a popular café in Brussels, I would create play lists with Fela’s groovy music and when played, both workers and customers would almost subconsciously start to make dance moves in between lattes! Even today, if you play Upside Down, you won’t see me sitting around for too long!
And more: Nigerian writers of course. The most obvious classics aside, Ben Okri and his famous spirit child Azaro are the dearest, with the ever re-occurring pepper soup playing an important role in Azaro’s adventures in this and the other world. And a little more recent reference: Noo Saro Wiwa’s fantastic travel book Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria.* She is the daughter of the murdered activist Ken Saro Wiwa, and was brought up in the UK and at some point in her adult life she decided to get a grasp of Nigeria and rediscover what it really is all about in all its controversies.
I also have a fond memory of one Lagosian artist friend who traveled overland all the way from Lagos to Saint-Louis on a trail of ceebu jën, the national dish of Senegal. It has its varied Nigerian interpretations expressed in jollof rice and my friend would turn that into succulent artistic experimentation and memorable rooftop dinners.
Thinking about all this, it appears that the most powerful export from a country is its art and artists. I’m often wondering how that is taken into account in the decision making in whichever city we talk about. As far as Lagos is concerned, and judged by one book that I read recently, art really does matter in the minds of the policy makers. Hopefully this is true and not just beautiful words in a book! While I was browsing my library shelves, a book popped into my hand, it was the exhibition catalogue Dey Your Lane – Lagos Variations.** Exhibition catalogues are a wonderful invention, and this particular catalogue is a treat. So was the exhibition, with 24 photographers telling each their own stories of Lagos. The opening words to the publication, addressed by the governor of Lagos State Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode, make room for optimism in regard to my question. He stresses the fact that it is important to nurture homegrown talent and believe in the arts, and he talks about how artistic innovation and creativity are the ways to address important global issues. Mayors and governors the world over, listen to this man!
A couple of mentions from the book:
Logo Oluwamuyiwa Adeyemi: Monochrome Lagos (2013-ongoing) is my favorite series in this exhibition. He documents “the theatrical arrangement of almost everything in this great human carnival” and creates an amazing archival reference to Lagos. Have a look at his Homepage: and a blog entry where he asks: “If I stripped Lagos of the colour, what would I find?”
Samuel James’s series Lagos underground (2010) has also very powerful images on the ‘Area Boys’. The photographer talks about Lagos where “people flow like water” and continues: “Such is Lagos, with its twenty million converging souls, meeting, parting, flowing into and away from each other and back again. Such are these tales of passage into the Lagos dark waters – guided by its keepers, the ‘Area Boys'”
Bas Losekoot started to explore the role of the individual in some of the world’s most crowded cities and his subjects in Familiar Strangers (2016) are people in transit in Lagos. He talks about while commuting to the city, we wear masks of self protection in order to “detach from space and reality.” It’s about “being alone together and granting each other a certain space and freedom.” When I think of my own experience of Dakar, I could add that it seems to have an amazing base of “human interface” that provides a fast lane to engage with other city dwellers. Some might call this even frustratingly fast! It becomes ever more crucial to recognize to what degree you actually do need to wear a mask of self protection, it’s an ongoing game of private and public and how you share your time between the two.
Ever heard of rugball, the game that the Lagosians play on the beach? Adolphus Opara’s Rugball (2006-2009) documents this popular activity as a means to find a sense of belonging and keeping out of trouble, and how this game “comes with neither the cliché-ridden rules of football nor the unruly and confusing conventions of rugby.”
I am thankful to all these 24 photographers and many other artists, who by documenting Lagos bring this megalopolis a little closer in all its human richness and flux. At the very end of this catalogue there is also an interesting timeline about certain milestones in the history of the city, ending in predictions that Lagos, which by the independence in 1960 had about half a million inhabitants, will have grown to 36 million souls by year 2050. In case you’re wondering what dey your lane means: it’s yet another survival strategy in a city as big as Lagos: stay on your own lane, i.e. mind your own business! That in mind, I have put Lagos on my list of travel destinations, and that list is very short.
* Noo Saro-Wiwa: Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria, Granta Books, 2012.
** Dey Your Lane – Lagos Variations, BOZAR BOOKS and Snoeck Publishers, Ghent, 2016.