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.
Great news: I have received an artistic development grant from the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts (AFK) to continue my work on connecting Africa and Europe, and specifically the Netherlands and Senegal.
The AFK jury says: “Your work is characterised by an authentic atmosphere, language and rhythm, both in narrative and in concept. Your work is both personal and universal: searching for identity and origin, parenthood and love.”
I visited the Cheikh Anta Diop University and the Senghor Foundation to research the visions of the great Senegalese intellectuals Leopold Sedar Senghor and Cheikh Anta Diop.
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.
Three weeks ago Noah Saliou and me moved to Dakar, and this taxi made us feel at home; the same car as I drove from Amsterdam to Dakar. Noah Saliou started school here: a big challenge for him. But he is very courageous and I am so proud of him!
I will continue working on the Amsterdam Dakar road trip and start the research for a new project on the (post) colonial era in Senegal. We are both super excited!
Till Friday, Noah and me will stay in the Torenkamer residency in the Vondelpark in Amsterdam. I will continue working on the Amsterdam Dakar roadtrip and explore the theme of migration in a wider context. I will research the famous film Touki Bouki by Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty, on migration from Africa to Europe.
Read my blog on the residency here: Torenkamer (in Dutch).
Photoville invited me to present Voyage à Dakar at their photo festival and offered me one of the 70 sea containers in Brooklyn Bridge Park, right next to the Hudson river, from September 13-23. I created an intimate studio with handwritten texts from my travel itinerary and photos roughly clipped with magnets to the walls of the container.
Also read the articles on Photoville Dutch Talent Featured at Photoville and “immigration more relevant than ever” in the Guardian.
Thanks to: Mondriaan Fund, Paradox, Dutch Culture USA, PHOTOVILLE.
A reunion with our Mercedes in Senegal! We are still in touch with the new owner of the car. Children broke the star from the hood of the car, it is painted grey – blueish, it has a Senegalese number plate and is still strong and running!
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?
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.
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.