A selection of my underwater photography will be in a collective exhibition in St.Louis Missouri (US), hosted by Barret Barrera Projects and curated by Modou Dieng / Blackpuffin in October 4 – November 23, 2019. The exhibition will inaugurate a new and exciting art space in St.Louis.
Statement by Modou Dieng:
The City on the River meets River City. Our Sister City from Africa: Saint-Louis, Senegal.
“A tale of métissage, five centuries old, sitting at its heart. A duality in colors pulsing through the fashion, the jazz, the crafts, permeating all aspects of its culture. The artists who have lived there, who were born there, or those who have simply fallen in love with her, all feel this rhythm. Past, present and never ceasing.”
I am very excited to be part of this and will share more details about the exhibition and other participating artists a little later!
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.
The ‘Ocean of Tuonela’ refers to the Underworld, the realm of the dead, in Finnish mythology. It is the title of a multi-artistic exhibition at Bailiff Starcke’s House at Kyrkogatan / Kirkkokatu in Kristinestad / Kristiinankaupunki, Fibnland.
The impact of time and man on our habitat is the overriding theme of the show, which aims to break borders and serve as a wake-up call. The individual works and the exhibition premises, an old wooden building, are in a constant dialogue on current issues related to life, death, power and climate change.
The exhibition allows you to contemplate decaying murals of mess halls in abandoned Soviet-time military bases, the fate of Senegalese fishermen as their environment is being submerged by the ocean waters and the loss of collective memory. The unique historical layers of the building itself naturally add to the experience: the exhibition spaces all tell their own story. Visitors are finally invited to participate in the Last Assembly (Viimeinen kokous).
The Ocean of Tuonela is a complex and intriguing project. The setting naturally brings attention to life in picturesque Kristinestad itself. The exhibition takes a stand and delves into the heart of the soul, but also surprises you with curiosities. Inside the building, visitors will find themselves in the middle of the surging Ocean of Tuonela. They will move in visual landscapes between the real and the unreal. There is always a glimmer of hope.
The exhibition has been realised by the members of the working group Tuonelan tienviitta, established over the course of the past year. Like-minded they may be, but their different personal points of departure and life experiences in different cultural environments bring a richness of perspective. The working group includes:
Marianne Halenius, physician (Kristiinankaupunki)
Kaisu Koivisto, visual artist (Helsinki)
Teijo Laaksonen, restorer (Kristiinankaupunki)
Staffan Martikainen, translator (Brussels / Saint-Louis, Senegal / Kristinestad)
Liisukka Oksa, conservator (Kristiinankaupunki)
Jarmo Pikkujämsä, visual artist and researcher (Saint-Louis, Senegal)
The exhibition is supported by a grant from the Finnish Cultural Fund Southern Ostrobothnia and is open between 17 June and 31 July 2019.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.