I dream of going to Touba

Today has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. It affected me very strongly to read the news in the morning about Senegal keeping its borders closed until 31st of May. This means I need to change my plan again, in other words I will stay put yet another six weeks (!) alone in the house. I tried to find out about possible repatriation flights with Air France and Air Senegal and found out that Air France has one flight on April 27 to Paris. I waited on the phone line for over an hour to find out if I could reserve a seat and it appeared that there were some places left in business class. A one-way-ticket would have cost 1800 000 fcfa, in other words over 2700 euro. That was a bitter call.

On a more positive note, I interviewed a friend called Aziz today for my video installation that I am preparing for Afropolis. It’s a work in which I chat with people about their home town. I will edit a short clip shortly and upload it on the Afropolis website and on social media on Ello. It’s a start for a series of interviews in my home residency that has been supported by The Kone Foundation. This project has a fresh and timely side vein: as I am being put on hold from shooting video material in Dakar or Nouakchott thanks to Covid-19, my focus is now on Saint-Louis full time. I am taking snapshots of people and will publish little stories in relation to these snapshots and post them in this blog. Keeping busy, are we? Six weeks will be but a blink of an eye!

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“I dream of going to Touba. Touba is my town.”  Afropolis 2020 © Jarmo Pikkujämsä

 

ABC in Wolof

Did you ever wonder why it matters to learn things in your mother tongue? And more so, to be able to also write it correctly? Many countries with colonial past still struggle with this and such is also the case of Senegal. We had the pleasure of hosting Clayton Junior, a designer from Brazil, at Waaw Centre for Art and Design for an art residency program and his project in collaboration with a local school in Saint-Louis is one very refreshing example of how art can contribute to pedagogical challenges. Please click on this link to access a video and read on!

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Waaw

Yes, Waaw*. In other words: Waaw Centre for Art and Design, the Artists’ Residence located in Saint-Louis, Senegal. This is a very short post to share with you a recent video that will briefly present what Waaw does. If you are more of a reader, you can also log on to Waaw’s homepage. Enjoy!

*Waaw is Wolof and means ‘yes’

Ahmed Ela

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© Jarmo Pikkujämsä

Some photographs stay with you always. I am not talking about actual prints in a shoe box but photos that you stored in some laptop, external memory or cloud and you forgot all about it up until it starts to pop back into your memory and you need to dig it up again and have a look. I took this photo in Ahmed Ela in Northern Ethiopia many years ago while sitting in a moving car and coming from or going to Dallol, I don’t even remember. But there are two things I do remember when I look at it. I remember what it felt like to be in that open space where there is nothing but distant horizon opening in all directions. It’s that fantastic feeling that takes over every time I am in a desert when you realize what a tiny little ant-like your life actually is on this planet. You may be going to places back and forth, you’re being dragged into social whatever drama, you climb some ladder you think you must climb, you want things that you have been taught to want… and so on and then you come to a place like this and everything starts to make sense again. I just love open wide space and the fact that you can look and see far away.

The other thing is that mysterious “highway” in the photo. It looks like a mirage, inviting you to take that road to.. where? Nowhere? Most likely somewhere north towards Eritrea. We left that chance to some other trip though. Oh and there’s also a third memory: it’s that sound when you walk in the heat of the day on that crispy salt, as this soil is nothing but salt that the Afar collect and bring back to urban environment on the backs of camels. If you have seen the Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara’s song Nterini you get the idea of what this place looks like. If you ever wanted to shoot a science fiction film, this is the place! A side note: this clip, quite typically to music videos, has a wee bit too many fancy juggles and fast paced cuts in it, this location would do the trick in a few long shots alone since it’s such a stunning scenery.

Ethiopia has been on my mind lately since we are in the planning mode for a future art residency in Ethiopia. The Dallol desert and the Danakil Depression might prove to be rather challenging environments so we’ll stick to the opposite and run the programme in buzzing Addis Ababa and in the magical town of Harar. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Black and White

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© Jarmo Pikkujämsä

I live in such a colorful environment that for some time now I’ve been wanting to add some black & white in my life just for the sake of contrast. I’ve noticed that seeing b&w photographs in exhibitions, in the midst of this continuous stream of colorful images, is very soothing.

I am also a big fan of music videos that present a story, like a short film. As far as music videos are concerned, I have two favorite categories: firstly videos in which a person – most often the singer – simply looks straight into the camera and sings. No fuss, no synchronized dancing in groups. Secondly, I love to see stories that have been filmed in black & white and with more or less non-linear and improvised narrative, such as Spoek Mathambo – The Mountain ft. Pegasus Warning, Dj Spoko & Dj Mujava. Take any screenshot moment in this fabulous clip and it will turn out interesting. That’s something to work for! Another good example of somewhat rare and cinematographic music video in b&w is Michael Kiwanuka’s song Black Man in A White World. It falls in the category of “What did I just see?” And there are others…

I have always been fascinated by the human body and how a person expresses him/herself through movement, and sometimes also with the lack of it through a momentary pause or “pose”. When I think of movement in a photograph I am not so much talking about the actual blur that the movement may create at the time of shooting the photo but rather about the idea inside the frame of “what comes next” or “how we got here”. So in a way a photo can talk loudly about what is not in the photo at that particular time. I am hoping to catch that kind of movement both in underwater photography and in shooting b&w film. It’s too early to say where all this will take me and that’s the fun in the whole thing! My plan is to buy a film scanner some time soon and and start working on prints on interesting papers. I have already experimented with handmade Japanese paper with interesting results. A new year is about to begin, and so is a new direction in my art practice.