I have traveled to Tunisia to photograph and film stories of migration from North Africa to Europe for Amnesty International’s European campaign When you don’t exist. The result will be presented as a multimedia installation in the public space in different European countries and at the World Social Forum in Tunis in March 2013.
ABSENCE: 3 perspectives on departure features three European artists working on issues related to migration, religion and popular culture in Senegal. While most exhibitions around migration tend to look at the trans-national political and geographical space, this exhibition focuses on intimacy and privacy. The perspectives are those of the migrants; what they leave behind them and what they recreate at destination to build a sense of attachment.
A subtext of the exhibition is the recurrent presence of the representation of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba. Founder and Supreme Leader of the Mourid Brotherhood – a sufi oriented islamic current strongly established in Senegal.
The exhibition is curated by Koyo Kouoh, and is accompanied by a catalogue with texts by Salah M. Hassan and Nick Skiadopoulos.
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.
Watch the video of the intervention in Amsterdam:
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.