The fisherman and the weaver

Finding pockets of unbuilt and lush vegetated land in a buzzling city like Dakar is not for the faint-hearted. Luckily there’s nothing Moussa can’t fix! While Karoline’s plane was landing and Jenny was pumping iron at the gym right next to a small harbour, Riitta and Moussa ventured down to these volcanic shores just out of curiosity. It was the usual Senegalese welcome of big smiles, and the tidal pool between the two pirogue-filled beaches just behind the fishermen’s cool boxes looked promising as a shoot location. When the complete Eyes as Big as Plates team returned to Térou baye sogui to look for collaborators and materials, we happened upon Baye who declared that if we wanted to work with a ‘Grand Pecheur’, this was our chance. He immediately called his father-in-law Boubou and five seconds later we were all on our way to his house to greet the great fisherman.

Moussa also took us to the markets on the first day in Dakar and at Marché Kermel we met the handiwork of Thiam. We were struck by his basket weaving and the bundles of palm leaves in his booth, but as the artisan himself was not present we returned the next day to meet the artist behind the creations.

Once again the executive board was present and involved in the vetting of the incoming artists, here represented by Boubou’s grand children. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Here is a brief history of Grandpa Boubou’s life at sea, who inherited his maritime knowledge from several generations past of fishermen in his family. Some 12 pirogue boats have accompanied Boubou through storms and waves in his 60 years of fishing, and the grand pecheur can navigate by the stars and even in the fog. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
On a quest to find material for Boubou’s wearable sculpture, his son-in-law Baye presented us with the nicest catch in the harbour. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
For weight considerations, we opted for something slightly more lightweight and went to the Soumbédioune fish market to look for the optimum ingredients. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Seafood cocktail ala Senegal. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Selecting only the finest. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
To make the most out of the catch we figured it was best to fillet each fish to optimise the shiny sides of the wearable sculpture. The Finn couldn’t contain her enthusiasm so she grabbed a board and joined her filleting sister across the table. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
The filleting speed reached such an impressive level the camera had a hard time freezing the moment. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
This was the only cloudy day in this nine day production and the studio could not have been prettier. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
We found this wire base discarded on the street in Sine Saloum and Jenny had walked off her own shoe soles in the middle of production in Ndos. They were quickly reappropriated as shoulder cushions for grandpa. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Boubou donned his work uniform for us, which he still keeps at the harbour. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
We descend to the harbour in style amongst the flotsam. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Boubou’s granddaughter Mama  (on the left) was an invaluable translator and Khaodo (left of Riitta) was a premium assistant during the shoot. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
About six kilos of fish embraced our Grand Pesceur as he stepped into his elements. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Grandpa Boubou’s heroic performance was appreciated by everyone including the receding tide in the pool. The torsofull of fish was no joke to wear. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Boubou brought all the fish back to his family for an elaborate seafood feast. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
A beach cleanup is well overdue here! We’ll comb this shore during the biennale at the latest. Come join us! © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

 

 

 

 

Thiam has lived in Dakar for 40 years and has 11 children. He exercises every single morning and works at his stall at the Kermel Market everyday except Sundays. We saw him in action and were wowed by the skill and speed of his basket making, his hands and feet worked seamlessly to simultaneously hold/cut/twist and pull the palm in place. A tiny stool on the floor works as the universally handy workbench. To the question ‘what makes a good artist?’, he said: Be confident and don’t be afraid to ask questions’. Naturally we followed up and asked if he would like to join the Eyes as Big as Plates family of collaborators. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
The sculpture was a true collaboration between the artists as Thiam custom-made the base to fit the shoulders of a person (at the time he didn’t quite know it would be him wearing it). The palm leaves grabbed our eye one night in the side of the road and found their way (via Jenny’s balcony) to the shoulders of Thiam. With most of the branches and leaves still somewhat alive and inhabited by tiny locals, the outdoors sculpture storage was much appreciated. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

 

The small path down to Plage de Mamelles had just about the right amount of foliage to fill the frame for this shoot. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Escaping most signs of human touch is challenging in Dakar, but we’d quite happily recommend this hillside just down from Phare des Mamelles Lighthouse near Cap Vert, the westernmost point of Africa, for anyone in search of a pocket of green in Dakar. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
The exact shoot location spot was naturally covered with thorny vegetation, so Karoline’s 4 sizes too small rubber boots came relatively handy…© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
…until it came the time to take them off…© Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
The master himself. © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen
Thiam’s shoot wrapped up the Senegal chapter of Eyes as Big as Plates. That was one action-packed 9 days! We have already started the countdown towards our return in May 2020 for the Dakar Biennale! © Karoline Hjorth & Riitta Ikonen

 

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