Residency

Story of a residency: WAAW Senegal

The entrance of WAAW.

It can take more time to reflect on what you have seen, learned, heard, experienced and felt coming back from one particular place than from any other.

That is what happened to me after my short visit to Saint-Louis, Northwest of Senegal, 320km from Dakar, as part of a residency with WAAW. I met wonderful and very inspiring people, I have seen unique places and I learned so much through the conversations I had with everyone. 

The WAAW residency viewed from the terrace.

I want to start this much belated series of posts about my residency in Senegal by presenting you the WAAW residency space and the people behind this wonderful endeavour.

From the terrace.

I have to thank two very special people for making this residency possible: Jarmo Pikkujämsä and Staffan Martikainen, the founders of WAAW. Two very passionate and knowledgeable professionals about Senegal and West Africa, they both traveled a lot in the region and have organised many tours throughout Africa and the Middle East with Harmattan Tours.

Jarmo holds a Ph.D. in African Literature from the School of Oriental and African Studies (UK). He has a strong interest and knowledge of coffee (he is the owner of Aksum Coffee House in Brussels) and in promoting cultural production. 

Staffan is a translator at the European Commission in Brussels. He is fascinated by West African music, languages and crafts. After importing African craft and design to Finland and Belgium he founded the Yelema association for the promotion of artisans.

And they are among the friendliest people I have ever met. 

The view from the WAAW terrace.

WAAW is situated in the heart of Saint-Louis, called Ndar in Wolof. 

Saint-Louis is a former colonial town, it was the capital of the French colony of Senegal from 1673 until 1902 and French West Africa from 1895 until 1902, when the capital was moved to Dakar. The city, which I will tell you more about in a later post in this series, is truly fascinating and filled with architectural gems.

The view on the street from WAAW entrance door.

A very important component of a residency at WAAW is exchange. You don't come here to be alone and do your thing, WAAW is a place for encounters between all kinds of people working in different areas. The place itself is surrounded with local cultural traditions including music, dance and various crafts, and you will see many local artists and makers coming to say hello to the residents. Jarmo and Staffan also organise events at WAAW itself as well as with local partners. 

Musician and instrument builder Abdoukhader Diop is getting ready inside WAAW to share his passion and knowledge.

The programme that was prepared for the one week residency was very intense - one of the reasons why it also took me so long to dive back into it all and have a serious reflection about this experience. So I met local writers, musicians, artists, weavers, a festival organiser, a village chief, a calligrapher, university students, filmmakers, business owners... and a lot lot more, many of these encounters I will also write about in later posts. 

The terrace at WAAW.

I can without any doubt say that Saint-Louis has stolen my heart and that WAAW is most certainly one of the main reasons why.

The entrance of the terrace of WAAW

I am now experiencing this journey again, through all the material I have collected during my residency, starting with these images of the residency space, which I hope will be an invitation for you to apply for this residency

Studio space at WAAW

Some practical information about WAAW:

  • Waaw is open to representatives of all artistic and academic disciplines, but especially professionals in visual arts, crafts and design are encouraged to apply.
  • The residence comprises 6 bedrooms; shared kitchens and bathrooms around a common courtyard.
  • 2 larger rooms are available for work, exhibitions or other work. Work space for special purposes, such as dance/performances can be rented cheaply outside the centre.
  • Tools, musical instruments, space for dance/performances can be rented cheaply outside the centre.

For further information, visit the WAAW website  

and most importantly:

Stairs going up to the terrace (and the beautiful Bougainvillea peaking from above)

In my next post of this Senegalese series, I will dive into the city of Saint-Louis. But without rush, I told you some visits need - and deserve - more time. 

Residency Gear

I wrote earlier I was finally looking into the material I collected from my residency in Copenhagen. While doing this, I found some photos of me in action, and this made me want to share some information about the practical side of my process.

So, what does one need when hunting for languages in a city?

Apart from good energy and motivation to walk and walk and walk (endless walking), and impermeable clothing (yes, even in the rain and in the cold you keep walking, because time is limited on a residency, and in Copenhagen, even in May it can be chilly), you need a good camera, a sound recorder, something to take notes (digital and/or analog, that's up to you, I do both) and an internet connection (3 or 4G if no Wi-Fi) for social sharing and on the spot research. You can have all these incorporated in one device: my iPhone 6 truly is perfect and I used it a lot for sharing photos on Instagram. I also recorded some sound but I think I will mostly use it for research purposes, but again, I am still looking into the material I collected so I may change my mind. The iPhone 6 is also great for filming, I have fewer films and I have no idea for now what I will do with it.

Next to my iPhone 6 I have my SONY RX III for everything that needs better quality images as well as further thinking and exploration. Here again, because I have no planned outcomes I rather have very good quality images on hand. Another important point is that photographing with the SONY requires different skills and another approach. I don't photograph the same way with my iPhone and working with the SONY pushes me to look at my environment differently. It also allows me to zoom, which I will get to in a later post. 

Clothes. It may sound frivolous to talk fashion, but it is no luxury to be prepared. I live in the North of Europe so I know Spring is not always sunny and dry. But Copenhagen is even further North than Amsterdam, so I had to be prepared. If you go on a residency to Copenhagen, bring a raincoat, a scarf (don't be afraid to have one with wool mixed in), comfy shoes (my Clarks were great for rainy days, my Converse for the sunnier ones) and a big messenger bag to collect flyers, brochures and more on the go.  

Also, keep it cool when you meet a giant bull in the heart of Copenhagen.

Below are a few pictures of me taken by Erinç Salor who accompanied me during some of my explorations, here in Superkilen and in centre Copenhagen near the university. 

Resurgence from Underwater

The Merman with Seven Sons, sculptures by Suste Bonnén. Photo by Canan Marasligil. 

It's been eight weeks since I've been back from Copenhagen.

I haven't worked on the materials I have collected during my one month residency at the University of Copenhagen, I haven't written or even put any order into all the media I brought back.

Photos, videos, sound recordings, digital notes, analog notes, flyers and brochures, books... and thoughts.

Many many thoughts.

When I got back, I felt a bit drowned under all these materials and everything I learned. It was an extremely rich residency. The people I met through the University and all that knowledge I collected has been very inspiring and motivating. 

Then I was back in Amsterdam, a place I for now call home. And I decided to leave those thoughts, ideas and all the collected material on the side for a while. And so it took me eight weeks to be able to start - yes, only start - to look back at what I experienced in Copenhagen. 

I kept thinking what I could start with, and I remembered that underwater sculpture, The Merman with Seven Sons in the heart of Copenhagen I took a picture of on a sunny day.

The sculptures were made in 1992 by Danish sculptor, photographer, and author, Suste Bonnen, based on the famous story found in Danish folklore: Agnete and the Merman (Agnete og Havmanden in Danish). The group of bronze sculptures is located underwater in the Slotsholm Canal next to Højbro (High Bridge). They portray a merman and his seven sons with outstretched arms, begging Agnete to return home. 

Mermaids and other mer-people are recurring figures in traditional Danish lore. Hans Christian Andersen's popular story The Little Mermaid inspired the Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, a most popular tourist attraction. 

Doing some light research on the subject, I found out different versions of the story, which has the same basis: a merman and a human, Agnete, fall in love, live together underwater, have children. One day, Agnete hears church bells coming from land and desires to go back, promising her husband she will come back. There she finds the family she had abandoned, her mother and sisters, and learns the bells are actually for her father's funeral who killed himself after having searched for Agnete for so long. 

No matter what exactly the story tells, how many children they have, if Agnete speaks to her real mother or a ghost because time passes differently underwater than on land,... the sculpture makes you feel the tragedy. These underwater statues reaching for their mother, the merman reaching for his loved one, in vain. Then there's me, looking from up the bridge, trying to decipher these figures. And now, looking at the photograph, feeling quite overwhelmed but also extremely excited about a new challenge that I will take with me in the coming months, going through all the materials and thoughts I've gathered in Copenhagen. It will be a long journey, and I want to take my time, even if I may now and again feel underwater. I will end up catching my Agnete's hand. 

 

My Instagram Copenhagen

Here's a snapshot (or 10 screenshots to be more exact) of my Instagram feed throughout my Copenhagen residency between 17 April and 17 May 2015, there's a couple of Berlin pictures in the first batch - preceding my CPH trip, and there are some Barcelona shots in between - as part of my residency at Copenhagen University I participated to a seminar on critical practices. Next step is to explore what's/are the story/ies I tried to tell through this Instagram feed, and compare with the 1497 other photos I took with my SONY RX III, awaiting for me in Lightroom - those will tell a rather different story I believe...   

City immersion continued... through architecture

Just like in the very first days of my arrival, I have been photographing buildings in my quest for languages in Copenhagen's city scape (and I will write more about this particular quest  and my findings at a later stage). I really enjoy this exploratory mode of my residency, walking with the only purpose of getting immersed in the city, through its architecture, its languages, its life, and stopping to observe and take photographs. It is a wonderful way to make the city my own in a way... and the writing which will follow the visual aspects will make this connection even deeper, I feel. More on that later... for now, enjoy the views... (click on a picture to start viewing the gallery): 

These buildings are around Copenhagen University's campus near Islands Brygge, some are part of the university, some are housing (including student housing like the round one).

Architecture (a first glimpse)

Navigating the city looking for languages also means appreciating its architecture. There are many architectural gems in Copenhagen (just do an image search typing "Copenhagen Architecture" and you'll see). They are not all collected in this photo gallery (yet). What you see below is a few shots I took while walking in the centre mostly, so many are historic buildings. I find this city very beautiful, colourful and original without being too overwhelming. Walking here is just a pleasure.

I will continue taking more pictures during my daily walks in and out of the city. 

For now, enjoy this first gallery (click on an image to start viewing): 

Settling in: the University of Copenhagen

I arrived in Copenhagen on 17 April. I had time to settle into my new apartment in the heart of the city (thank you Airbnb!) and wander in the streets of the sunny and lively city. On Monday, I got to the university, where I am Writer in Residence until 17 May. I've been given an office to share inside the Amagur Campus of Copenhagen University. It is a gorgeous campus, very close to the city centre - a 35 minute walk from where I am. The library and many working spaces are just amazing. But more importantly, being based in the department of art and cultural studies, I have the chance to interact with excellent researchers, lecturers and students. We are currently planning a few exchange moments on a variety of topics dear to my heart, around contemporary literature, languages and comics. This is definitely my favourite part of a residency, the opportunity to learn from people working locally but also to share my own experience of the spaces I interact in. 

Here are a few pictures I took during my first visit on campus (click on the image to view the gallery):

Residency in Copenhagen

I am extremely happy to announce that I will spend a month in Copenhagen from mid-April to mid-May as part of a residency organised by Culture@Work.

The Culture@Work Project aims to develop an international platform for the circulation of artistic work and for the collaborative training of professionals in the cultural sector. It is coordinated by the Lisbon Consortium - Catholic University of Portugal, and includes the Department of Arts and Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen and MACBA - Barcelona Museum for Contemporary Art in its networks. 

Needless to say I feel very proud to have been selected. 

During my residency in Copenhagen, I will explore the “City in Translation”, taking languages and the city's public space as a starting point to explore how the process of translation happens and how people interact with the languages in their city. Throughout my residency, I will go on a hunt for stories behind these words and languages. 

I will also go to Barcelona on 24-25 April to talk about the work I'll do during my residency at the Circulating Critical Practices workshop .  

I am looking forward to this new challenge and will share my experience as usual here and on social media. 

Journalists' Residency in Senegal

Between 1 and 9 March, I will be in Senegal to participate to a residency for cultural journalists, organised by the Waaw centre for art and design. I feel very privileged to have been accepted by the programme and am very excited to visit a country I don't know at all. 

A very good friend of mine in primary school was from Senegal, and my father had a good friend from Dakar too. Those people are my only connection to this country and I am eager to learn more. 

If I don't have the occasion to post regularly about my trip while there, I will sure write afterwards to share my experience, hopefully illustrating it with some nice pictures.