This short film was part of a residency I completed at Jiwar, Creation and Society
(jiwarbarcelona.com) based in Gracia, Barcelona, funded by The Africa Centre (africacentre.net) and the Spanish Embassy of South Africa).
I am a product of colonial history. This positioning has led me to focus my artistic practice on memory, place, and home making with a strong focus on migration.
Spending the past five weeks in Barcelona I forged a small path through the city.I am intrigued by how people who are a minority, such as African “migrants” in Barcelona, navigate the city. What is their experience of it? What happens afterone survives the treacherous crossing by boat such as Mamadou Dia who has written a book 3052 about his experiences proyecto3052km.com/requisitos, or how has the experience changed after living here for twenty years like Xumo Nunjo who works as a musician/artist.
How does one hold onto a deeply rooted sense of self, a cultural identity, and make new paths whereby lines of ethnicity, race, and nationality begin to shift and become malleable in order to adapt and make new forms of home.
Armed with a complex position, a great deal of curiosity, and a wealth of questions; this project needed to be multilayered. Thus Vecinos is a multidisciplinary project. I worked in different modes from documentary portraiture to participatory photography, whereby people took pictures on disposable cameras of what they wanted to show of Barcelona in terms of their experience of navigating and negotiating the city, thus “neighbourhood making”. These images were exhibited in Spain and will be exhibited in South Africa in 2014.
Some people I met are very rooted within Barcelona, surrounded by friends, studies, dreams, their lives are lived in the present – home being where they are, and this is what they chose to photograph. Yet they also keep strong connections to home, running O.N.G’s to educate youth at home in Senegal like Mamadou Dia : proyecto3052km.com/hahatay/.
Based on my five weeks of hanging out, with various people form Africa living in Barcelona I made a short film that reflects the experiences of how people have come to Barcelona and made the strange familiar, and how certain things, such as a sense of European individualism, continues to remain unfamiliarly strange.
Xumo Nunjo has been living in Europe for the past twenty years, originally from Cameroon.
"I am from the planet Earth, born in Africa, I have lived in Europe for the past twenty years. You can never lose your African roots they are too strong, but you have to be universal, you have to be planetary. Home is the cosmos. Home is this planet. Don’t accept anything else."
Mamadou Dia has been living in Europe for the past eight years, he came to Spain by boat from Senegal.
"The term neighbor in my country is a sacred thing. In fact we always urge people to consider them, the neighbors are an extension of the family. I was lucky to live a short time in Barcelona and become friends with my neighbors. We always recommend to look at the community where we live, a mother, father, brothers and friends, so it will feel protected as a family and people can live in harmony".
Gelia Barila Angri.
"I'm 24 years I came to live in Barcelona when I was 16 from Ecuatorial Guinea. So I've been here eight years ...
For me, a home is where you make you home, where you feel comfortable. No matter where you are born. For me personally my home is here, but I always remember my roots, I never forget where I come from".
"When I was young I had the dream to come to Europe. I came to Barcelona, like a lot of people, to look for money, for work. In Europe there is a lot of opportunity. Sure there are people who are living well in Senegal but I think there are more opportunities here. You can make more money here, that’s why a lot of people want to come here. For me there are opportunities here, but for the last year I haven’t been able to find a job. In terms of the people here - there are some people who are open some people who are closed it depends on the people. If people look at me on the street because I am black, it doesn’t bother me, because I am here looking for a better life. I don’t want to live in Europe my whole life, I don’t like being away from my family the whole time".
November 25th 2013
Sydelle Willow Smith