At the roof top terrace of our home at Gorée Island, in Dakar, Senegal, I am working on the image editing for my book on the Amsterdam Dakar road trip. A photo book about connecting different worlds, migration, identity, education, parenthood and love. A beautiful graphic design by Rene Put. With contributions by African writers, philosophers and artists.
And wonderful news: the Mondriaan Fund gave a grant for the book publication.
This weekend I am presenting “Voyage à Dakar” at “Regards sur Cours”, an art festival at Gorée island. I developed an installation in the library of a former colonial house, Keur Khadija, which is now used as a children’s home.
The children’s book “Leuk the Hare” written by Senegal’s first president Leopold Sedar Senghor, plays a special role in this installation: former school teacher El Hadji Mbengue, who lives at Gorée and grew up with the stories of Leuk the Hare, is reading the book.
This performance is combined with the projection of silent, poetic images of me and Noah Saliou who, together – against the migration flow – are crossing and connecting two continents.
It is interesting to present the work here in Senegal, where many people have mixed identities and shared their personal stories about Senegal, Africa and (be-)longing. Many people in Senegal know “Leuk the Hare” and shared their favorite stories. Also Noah Saliou’s grandparents came and loved to see the images and to hear the stories.
My series on migrants graves in Senegal – part of the project “Presence in Absence” – has been nominated for the Dutch Doc Awards! For this series I have traveled along the beaches of Senegal, from Dakar up north to Saint Louis at the border with Mauritania.
In “presence in absence” I show different aspects of this universal phenomenon: empty rooms in both Senegal and Europe in which I focus on the absence of the migrants, in the intimacy and privacy of the rooms they left behind. The perspective is that of the migrants; what they leave behind them and what they recreate at destination to build a sense of attachment.
The series of washed up clothing on the beaches of Senegal shows the uncertainty of what happened to the migrants: have they drowned in the ocean or have they arrived in Europe?