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A first conclusion of my immersion in Senegal 4-19 June 2010

Frontiers open only if man ventures as far as the frontiers

"AFRICA - Whatever you thought, think again" - Jared Diamond

In 2005 this expression by Jared Diamond was the cover title of an issue of "National Geographic" - and it comes back in my mind now - one month after the return from my first immersion in Senegal.

I am still not really able to take a distance on all levels in the following first conclusion - too strong holds still the desire to get deeper inside of those unexpected essential experiences (not foreseen in my original agenda) that I focussed spontaneously on these synthetic versions in one of my diary pages while in Dakar (here a short extract):

… I came as a stranger

but since I have gone the first time

with the common transport

my vision has changed

I take part …

… Clandestine immigration …

… I have known black angels

come out of the sepulchral solitude

of an infinite, extraneous and hostile sea …


In my official report, published here on our website, you will not find any note that lets you imagine to which extent these days in Senegal had become a balancing act for me - regarding on the one side my Agenda and on the other the essential and sometimes existential experiences that can not be scheduled anywhere.

On these pages, I had to illustrate first of all in which way the 'Initiator' of the Project immersed in the living space of the region and the exemplary circumstances, in which she met the people, who could be involved in the realisation of the Project. Due to the shortness of time, she could not meet all those she would have liked to, but that should not impinge on their later participation, if they so wished.

Regarding this principal objective -

To prepare the Project 'Mare Nostrum - The Voice of West Africa' so that the Initiator, together with the regional coordinator, becomes able to give impulses in the float of life -

what does it mean to provide the methodological guide line enabling the involved people to express the essential roots of their living space in relationship to the sea - and finally to develop their own point of view.

On this level I can clearly answer that I came back not only enriched and with clear ideas how to set in motion the Project together with the Senegalese team, but I returned also with a strong vision about associated projects.

One of these associated projects has to do with my original idea (expressed in the original more comprehensive proposal in 2009) to make a film about the fisher woman in West Africa together with a young film director.

This idea returned with great power in my mind after having participated three times in the 'Ndeup' ceremony (with the many symbolic performances related to the sea - as for example the initial sacrifice and the final purification acts) and specially after the meeting with the Priestess in which she invited me to participate next year at the end of the winter time at the 10 day long ceremony in Yoff.

I imagine already that this participation could become the exemplary beginning of a film project about women in fishing communities in West Africa - because in my mind the Priestess is the key for the first deep approach to their nature, their social as well as cultural status.

I see already lively before me a film in two parts - I myself would feel responsible to find and to write the story - in collaboration with 2 female film directors: a European one and a West African respectively - two perspectives about women of the sea - an intercultural adventure.

One of the reasons for the chance to get a clear perception about some of the urgent problems of the Region, was not only the assimilation of the existential approaches of the visual African art scene - as I described it shortly in my report about the Biennale of Dakar - but also the great opportunity to see in the Off Events of the Biennale two films that touched the centre of my interest in the approach:


1) The Fight for the Sea

Documentary, France 2002, Moustapha Ndoye

More information:
This is the story of a meeting. Men and women from Senegal and Brittany (France), involved since years in the defence of traditional fishing.

2) Wax for wax, the words to say it

Documentary posthumous, Mustapha Ndoye, Senegal 2009

More information:

In Wolof, with French subtitles, Senegalese personalities, known and unknown, give their finishing words of illegal immigration.

This film gives also a clear vision about the desire of the Senegalese people: Africa should find the way to develop by itself.

Yes, I came home enriched and with a great affection for the Senegalese culture and the Senegalese people, with their human dimension, dignity and their great desire to overcome the pain of the past.

Still I know little about West Africa - and until now mostly on an intuitive level - but I anticipate already which promising outlook is encapsulated in the following words of Jared Diamond - a personality with a deep knowledge of Africa:

"Is the African continent doomed eternally to wars, poverty, and devastating diseases?

Absolutely not."

Bolsena, 19 July 2010

Carla Zickfeld


PS A short summary report bringing together insights from ecological and socio-economic research as well as the findings from the preparatory mission is available. It also contains a short bibliography of information sources for the reader interested in familiarising different dimensions with emphasis on West African fisheries, their ecosystems and the societies depending on the sea. Click here to download it.