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!
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.
This is what it looks like when the heavenly taps open… This year the rainy season has been mild except for this last rain which poured down yesterday during about an our. It took a couple more hours before all this water had disappeared from the streets.
After rain it’s necessary to sweep ponds of water from the rooftop as some parts of the flat roof tilt the wrong way in regard to the evacuation pipes and the water that stagnates there finds its way very fast to even the smallest of cracks and into the building. When it rains heavily, the water starts to flood into the house also from the balconies because it cannot get out fast enough. So you need is rags, and more rags, and never leave the house for too long these days.
Guet Ndaru Mool is one of my continuous photography projects. Now after summer break I thought I would focus particularly on portraits and make a series that would have a retro feel and reflect the organic nature of the local fishing business. Here’s for starters:
The local fishing community feels the effects of climate change first hand and many families have already lost their homes to the sea. Their lifestyle is vulnerable and alarmingly threatened because of coastal erosion and rising sea levels. A few years back we hosted documentary photographer Greta Rhybus at Waaw and she made a fantastic photo series on climate change in Senegal.
In Saint-Louis life really spins around fishing. There are anglers on the edges of the river; men in water up to the waist – or sometimes neck – throwing in their nets both in the river and in the sea; there are small boys in giant wooden fishing boats called pirogue on the shores just waiting to grow and follow in the footsteps of their fathers; there are boat builders, engine repairers, horse carriages, fish dryers, men sleeping on giant mountains of blue nets, waiting for departure or resting after a night out in the sea, net repairers, refrigerators, ice vans, ice factories… and the big fish market where women handle and sell fish and where the other-worldly scenes of busy crowds, melting ice and crazy chaos with some hidden order to it make it one of my favorite spots in the entire town… That other-worldliness is what I am hoping to catch into my portraits.