On the tree by the entrance of the Institute, the passer-by sees a continuous, steady stream of names of African men, moving up the trunk and branches. Around the same imposing tree, the passer-by hears the sound of the surf of the West African ocean, which gradually blends into a recording of immigrants singing, mourning the passing of one who was lost. Cause and effect follow each other in a fitting and poetic way. Both image and sound emphasise the continuity of the phenomenon that is immigration.
Around the tree there are photos Judith Quax took in West Africa of the windows in the rooms of men who had focused their gaze on Europe, form images that represent a poetic glimpse, full of expectation.
At the Dakar Biennale of 2008, Judith Quax presented work on the same theme with posters in the public space. Her work was published in the NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art, accompanied by a text of Salah M. Hassan.
The projection is in collaboration with visual artist Ellert Haitjema.
‘immigration clandestine’ will be presented at the Dak’art Biennale! Africa’s leading contemporary art biennale in Dakar, Senegal, opening at May 11, 2012. A multimedia installation, large photo prints and a tabloid newspaper on immigration will be exhibited at the French institute, rue Gomis, Dakar, Senegal.
Since 2007 I am researching and photographing illegal immigration from West Africa to Europe. In that period large waves of immigrants risked their lives in small fishing boats, hoping to reach Europe.
I am interested how the immigrants are surviving in Europe. In Senegal the immigration phenomenon had the slogan “Barca or Barsakh” – meaning in the Wolof language “to Barcelona or to die”. I went to Spain to do research and to make some first photographs. I started in Tarifa, the most southern part of Spain and from there up North.
Developing a critical understanding of the wave of new migrations of African people across borders of environments and cultures, as well as modes of resistance, presents an urgent necessity. We must establish platforms for knowledge production to fill in the glaring gaps in understanding the cultural and political dynamics of a world in motion, and to focus on unearthing the root causes and consequences of new migrations in Africa and the West. Situating this phenomenon within historical, sociocultural, and artistic points of view will advance important frameworks for understanding the complexity of migratory flows of a disadvantaged population whose dreams and aspirations for a better life often get curtailed by powerful state practices.
Each of Quax’s photographs is a stand-alone canvas, in which the artist’s command of the medium transforms the scene into a compelling work of abstraction, while avoiding an over-aestheticizing act that would have compromised the depth of the conceptual aspects of the work. The empty rooms, which have been nicely kept for the most part by the families of these young men, speak volumes of the hopes, sadness, and fear felt by these families as they ponder the destinies of their loved ones beyond the treacherous seas.
Salah M. Hassan is an art critic, curator and Goldwin Smith Professor of African and African Diaspora Art History and Visual Culture at Cornell and Princeton University, USA. Together with Okwui Enwezor he founded NKA Journal.
With Frederik van Oudenhoven (writer and initiator) and René Put (design) I am working on a book on Pamiri traditions and culture. We are doing the photo edit and this photo of a Kuchi boy near Lake Sheva in Afghanistan will definitely be in. Kuchis (from the Persian word Koch meaning “migration”), are Afghan Pashtun nomads, that live a nomadic life travelling between pastoral lands in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.
My work was selected for LagosPhoto festival in Nigeria. I was there for the opening ceremonie October 8th and photographed the Felabration, the week that celebrates the birthday of Fela Kuti, in his nightclub Shrine in Lagos. This is a starting point for a project on Fela Kuti’s legacy.
With Frederik van Oudenhoven (writer and initiator) and Rene Put (design) I am working on a book on Pamiri traditions and culture. The Pamir Mountains represent one of the more remote and least visited regions of Afghanistan and Tajikistan. A significant crossing point through the mountains of Central Asia, it has been traversed over the millennia by nomads, pilgrims and explorers. Throughout the Middle Ages, it was a key part of the Silk Road trade network, linking China and Europe.
“Clothing” is the name of a series of Dutch photographer Judith Quax – just this. Clothing is also what is visible on her puristic photographies: shirts and jeans on a deserted beach. Sand and water infiltrate the sleeves, inflate the trunk and take the shape of the body clad in those clothings just yet. (…)
The disembodied portraits of “Clothing” seem to continue Judith Quax’ first Senegal series: For her 2007 “Immigrants” she captured the abandoned rooms of young migrants. Lumpy mattresses, fluttering curtains, an everted shirt in the surf: Quax shows West Africa as an abandoned place. This aesthetic of absence also illustrates the fundamental nature of African migration to Europe: From the moment they leave, the migrants become invisible, clandestine, illegal. Even those of them who have reached the “Fortress Europe” without adversities and without being noticed, live here in secret, without doctors, social support or legal representation. (…)
The series Ndeupe, on Senegalese immigrants wives, is exhibited at the African Studies Centre in Leiden, from June – August 2011. This series was also selected for the Noorderlicht Photofestival 2010: Land.