Varess is a small oasis village close to Mhairith (أمحيرث) and hardly available for a virtual visit on Google Maps. As a prelude to the urban Nouakchott, where you see signs of nomadic lifestyle even in contemporary housing, I wanted to share a couple of photographs from this region where dates are produced and where the housing is amazingly practical and ecological. Here the buildings are designed either for a permanent occupation or more often for temporary shelter for the workers who live here during the harvest season. Everything is build from what you get from the surroundings and with very basic purpose: to provide shelter from sun, wind and sand. This is a very rocky environment, and yet there is also sand that moves and it does so constantly. You don’t necessarily want to fight it and so you build stone walls with holes in it that allow the sand pass through rather than make the sand pile up against the wall and eventually break it.
Then of course you have the traditional Mauritanian tents, another very practical invention for people on the move. Even tents have found their way to the city environment in various ways – more about that next!
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?
The full series has 30 photographs. Hahnemühle archival pigment prints, 16:9 ratio (2019).
One photograph for each day of this brand new year. I am not very good at this kind of projects but let’s give it a try! My plan is to have my film camera not only on my mind but close at hand daily. It’s nice to see how this immediately affects the way you look at things and how you react to the surrounding light, or to the lack of it as I am starting the whole thing in Brussels in January when its really dark even in the middle of the day. Street photography is also fun because it makes you look slightly weird when you’re considering whether to shoot or not. And it makes you stop while the rest of the world keeps busy.
For the record: I am publishing here smartphone “duplicates” of my photos. Otherwise you would get updates only every few months or so. Just follow my trail in the album!