We're moving to Kounoune
Text by Raquel Wilson, Cultural Curator
Stillness, solitude, emptiness, and muted, are all words that come to mind when viewing the images of Emmanuelle Andrianjafy’s We’re Moving to Kounoune. Taken 25 kilometers outside Dakar, the capital city of Senegal, the photos capture what resembles a “ghost town” with its many half-finished houses, low-hanging cables from electrical pylons, and a heavy-oil power plant with three towering chimneys.
Andrianjafy, typically attracted to environments devoid of or with minimal human presence–but with traces of human activity–uses her work to raise non-existential questions from the details and evidence contained in her images. It was these questions and the seemingly “forgotten-ness” of the community of unguided urban planning that brought her to Kounoune and created the basis for this body of work.
In early 2014, while doing some exploration along the newly completed highway leading out of Dakar, she was drawn to Kounoune by its three chimneys that towered small houses in what seemed like a long-deserted construction project. However, during this visit, she noticed most of the homes were actually inhabited and her mind begin to formulate questions about the place and how economic growth translated. “Can this be called prosperity?” “ Why or how do families decide to settle in Kounoune?” “How will this place look a few years from now?”
Unhappy with the first black and white shots from her initial visit, it wasn’t until one year later, in the beginning of 2015, curious to see if things had changed and with many questions lingering, she returned to Kounoune. Never before feeling such a connection to a location, she found the dubious absence of life, Sahelian climate, blowing sand, humming from the pylons, grey from the concrete structures with few spots of color, and power lines to all be powerful characters in a story she was strongly compelled to tell with her camera.
During these visits she noticed more new constructions yet to be finished and many that still had not advanced towards completion. Choosing to sparsely include tell-tale signs of human life, like clothes hanging from a line and masjid, one of the only completed structures, in the series, Andrianjafy makes viewers wonder if this place is past, present or future. Has it been deserted or is it on the verge of vibrancy?
Andrianjafy leaves the answers up to her audience. Allowing those both familiar and unfamiliar with the quickly evolving communities growing up around Senegal’s bustling capital city to create their own connections to this unique environment.