"A fundamental schism between the application process and my work comes from my lack of focus. I prefer to work inspired by the environment I find myself in. I call myself a visual artist but there are many more layers to my work than that. My proposal was to work with the incredible Senegalese fabrics to create images, but in truth I am not much of a maker. On arriving in St Louis, I became conscious of the difficulty I was going to have with the language, speaking little French and no Wolof. This was going to severely limit interactions with the community. But I was also conscious of the richness of St Louis culture. Although I have traveled extensively in Asia and Europe here was a different world, one that I must learn from new beginnings.
Photo: Steve Bates
In the end I embarked on three projects. The first was an attempt to make a kite from materials available. Incredibly for me, it was almost impossible to find suitable rods, and gaffa tape is unheard of in St Louis. I was successful however in finding fishing swivels. My first cloth kite, done from memory (using fragile cane from Djoudj bird park) never really flew successfully. But a smaller plastic kite did. It’s first flight was on
the beach near the northern Fisherman’s village and I was instantly swamped with children and youth. I gave the kite to the group and left.
Then strangely, the wind that had been so omnipresent when I arrived in St Louis died away and was replaced by a calm misty stillness. The kite project stalled.
I had been buying fabric and filming patterns that captured my attention. Before leaving the Riverina I had done a stop motion animation using cloth and I started to play with that here. Soon it became evident I was producing a series of small animations and looped films. I did use fabric I bought to make animations of people, and a taxi, but I also drew chalk fish on a local black wall, and manipulated images. This series I called NDar Ways (Intimate Animations), which was exhibited on a powerless day at Waaw and at the new gallery.
In a moment of inspiration, brought on by finishing the exhibition component of my work here, and because I had been idly dreaming that the rooftop adjacent to Waaw would make an excellent performance space, I conceived of a short work using the story of the Wreck of the Medusa, made famous by Gericault’s amazing painting. This is the grande histoire of St Louis. The ship was on its way to St Louis with thenew Governor when incompetence ran it aground on the Arguin Bank, which is now off the Banc d’Arguin National park on the north coast of Mauritania.
All this was floating around my head, and I read the Narrative written by two of the 15 survivors J. B. Henry Savigny and Alexandre Corréard and used this to construct my script. As is my way, it was conceived with a digital projected back ground (using two triangles as did Gericault’s work) and a soundscape courtesy of Steve Bates.
I did not have time to polish the work, and could only merely hint at the potential, but performed it roughly twice.
The residency has been an incredible experience. I have enjoyed the company of other artists, and the chance to help Steve with his work (and thank him for his help on mine). The supportive environment of Waaw allowed me to enter a very creative space, and let my mind wander in all the directions that it does."