Tirés(er) ailleurs, forgetting oneself with distances, 2020

series of 10 photographs, inkjet print, 20x30cm and 40x60cm, © Souleymane Bachir Diaw and Pauline Boyenga Bofala

This series is a collaborative work with Pauline Boyenga Bofala (artist, costume designer). It is a reflection on the sometimes described alienating journey from their homelands (Senegal, Congo) to France, through the stories of the "Tirailleurs". The latter were african soldiers belonging to the colonial troops of the French colonial empire since 1857 and were disbanded in the early 1960s.

The (10) photographs are a portal to memories the Tirailleurs left behind them. They were inspired by the war-drama film Camp Thiaroye (1988, Ousmane Sembène), which takes the audience through the Tirailleurs journey back to their respective home by way of Thiaroye (Dakar, Senegal). There, they were expecting to be paid and released by the French army. The artists found in Sembene’s film an interactive representation of exile and the forgetfulness that it entails.

For them, it is about the silences the movie highlights, during the short rituals or the slow moments of walking, waiting, thinking, shaking, revolting, ...

Pauline created costumes where the military-related accessories depicting hostility meet West African pieces that celebrate and preserve memories, unforgettable, even in foreign places. She brings protection and celebration for what cannot be forgotten in unknown landscapes. Her research and insights on the Tirailleurs show in the tones and volumes of her creations.

Souleymane aimed to picture pieces of memories. His staging anonymizes the landscapes and focuses on the character, who, by depriving us of his gaze, seems almost always to be looking forward or backward, for himself. The character’s body and the objects around him become the only testaments to nostalgia and reconnection. Like in a nymph, forming a new landscape. 

Have you ever seen a nymph from the inside?

Shown at

  • Haute Photographie, Rotterdam (NL), 2022
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