The first and last names of migration

After Marrakesh, Dakar, Paris and Florence, the installation “People of Tamba” come to Milan, at Fondazione Sozzani (and in the city’s streets).

Inspired by “People of the Twentieth Century”, the famous typological portraits series realized by german photographer August Sander shortly before the rise of Nazism, with “People of Tamba” Giovanni Hänninen performs a vital and necessary act, just in a moment when Europe threatens to turn it vack to basic concepts like union, solidarity, law and, ultimately and sadly, humanity.

The 200 portrait of Tambas, realized in that very poor rural hearth of Senegal where many of the modern migrants come from, speak the same clear and straight language, but they are talking to a contemporary audience, who by now should have learned a great lesson from history but is yet likely to make again the same mistakes.

Deprived of their names and surnames by the numbing daily news, migramts are flooded in the ocean of big data, good for statistics but unable of explaining what is happening. Hänninen is rather interested in these people’s stories, the facesof the women and men who are behind this great collective story, their names, their professions, in a world the identity that too often they have been denied. But unlike an identification shot, which is the highest acknowledgment proof they could aspire to once they have crossed the Mediterranean Sea, here, in these generous and colorful representations of the native Tambacounda everything, from the chlotes to the setting, speaks of an entire life, of the dignity of a personal narrative which is essential to share.

That’s why the distance these 3x2 meters size printed images have travelled, moving from the walls of a city to another’s, is very important: first, in 2018, in Senegal itself, at Dak’ Art African Contemporary Art Biennale, and in Paris, during the Nuit Blanche; then, this year, in Florence for the Black History Month Festival and in the Marrakech Medina during the l’1–54 Contemporary African Art Fair al Musée d’Art Contemporain Africain Al Maaden.

Now, once again printed as billboards — a poor, straight and yet complex solution — and posted across the city as a public art operation of granted effect, on the occasion of the exhibition at Fondazione Sozzani from May 17th to June 2nd they have reached Milan, not just on the Corso Como 10 terrace walls but also in the city streets, to look us in the eyes and demand attention and consideration.

Senegal/Sicily: Alpha/Aisadou, trailer

“Homecomings”, one of the short video-documentaries filmed by author and director Alberto Amoretti with Giovanni Hänninen, will be showcased in conjunction with the exhibition. Conceived in collaboration with the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and the Ong Le Korsa, “Senegal/Sicily” is in fact somehow the perfect companion to “People of Tamba”, to which is related while being a different project.

The videos, direct accounts of migrants telling their own experience or their fellow countrymen back home, are a long–distance dialoguewhich on the one hand is respectful of the oral tradition, and on the other is grafted in the local education and prevention system with contemporary instruments. After being first projected in the village of Tambacounda, in a travelling mode which is as well reminescent of the early years of tha last century, the videos have then landed to the Maysles Documentary Center di Harlem, in New York, via Dakar, Marrakech and Palermo. The research, fascinating in its straight and essential narrative linearity, goes from the virtual conversation between motthers and sons to the differences between the first and the latest migration waves, from the hopes of the female students at Foyer de Jeunes Filles in Tambacounda to the ones who had to leave Senegal because of their omosexuality, to the case of Thiaroye-sur-mer, a place of too many goodbyes. In this fourth episode, the migrants who have been forced to get back home, furthermore knowing they didn’t make it.   

Before the opening of the exhibition, a conversation between GiovanniHänninen, who i salso professor of architectural photography at Politecnico di Milano, and Simona Bordone, head of special projects at Domus, will be held at Verso bookshop in Corso di Porta Ticinese 40 on Wednesday 15 at 19.00: “Photographed landscapes” is the title of the meeting, that will try to take stock on the role of photography towards architecture and landscape.

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