The Ministry of Dreams (Ministère des rêves) is an intervention/installation at the University of Cheikh Anta Diop located in Dakar, Senegal. It is a call to dreams, a built passage to find playfulness and dreaminess in a place where many times is not seen as such. In my walks through the university I have seen numerous advertisements for students to go abroad; an unspoken land of dreams is placed outside of the university perimeters, outside of Dakar, outside of Senegal. Once while having a dialogue with Congolese dancer Faustin Linyekula I asked him what was poverty for him; he answered with absolute confidence: the lack of dreams.
Can we rely on what objects have to tell us? Which (hi)stories are objects telling us? Which is the potency and the agency of objects?
This photographic series ponders upon the idea of material history. It is a collection of objects found at the street known as “couloir de la mort” (death row) located in the campus of the Cheikh Anta Diop University in Dakar, Senegal.
My body itself is a mosaic of heritages; my mouth, my hair, my skin color; not to say the language with which I express myself and my believes. We are thrown into the world with an inheritance and this inheritance is even more complex for the colonized. Franz Fanon insists that the colonized man is a political creature in the most global sense of the term and he couldn’t be more right. The history of many peoples was suddenly fragmented with a foreign language, political scheme, and Julia Kristeva emphasizes our innate foreigness. “Handle with care” is a warning to address our self reflections, our fragile identities, understanding that we are all already foreigners.
This installation was set on an abandoned and rusty shipping container at the Nigerian Railway compound in the city of Lagos. It was inspired by one visit to a local market where I saw this mirrors, they had a tape around them which read: Fragile. Handle with care. I thought it to be a great way of framing a mirror. Our fragmented reflections, our fragmented histories and life stories have been marked by the complex dialogue of identity, globalization, colonization and locality.
In some of the mirror I wrote quotes from Julia Kristeva’s book Strangers to Ourselves.
Numerous students living at the student houses from the Cheikh Anta Diop university in Dakar, Senegal; go out every night to study under the street lights of the campus boulevard. Every night they go to memorize and rehearse words; words meaningful to their future practices. Jacques Derrida understands the university profession – professors – to be intrinsically related to the religious act of professing. To profess is an act of faith. Studying is, as well, an act of faith. The murmurs and the slow movements of these students resemble praying acts. Movements allow for knowledge to be embodied. The public space becomes their private-communal space. Lux mea lex (“Light is my law”) is Cheikh Anta Diop’s motto; strangely enough most of these young people are law students profiting from public lighting. There is a hope for future, a hope projected towards knowledge as a means to materialize dreams. Most acts of faith are acts of courage; these students are definitely courageous.
A dance intervention in situ (Cheikh Anta Diop University) with the participation of Pi Krump, Inas Dasylva, Bienvenu Gomis, Khadim Ndiayea and Clarisse Sagna took place in the main boulevard of this university.
“I do not understand love stories”, was the starting point of an investigation about romantic love; followed by an act of public writing. During three months I worked as a scrivener at the Santo Domingo public square in Mexico City. My scrivener duty was to write love letters, for free.
Scriveners are the professionals that write letters or documents for legal purposes, or for people who cannot read or write. Mexico City still maintains this dying tradition and a community, of approximately 40 scriveners, goes to work everyday at the arcades of the Santo Domingo public square. This square was founded in the 16th Century as part of the catechist and urban activities of the Spanish colonial period in the -at the time- recently conquered Tenochtitlán. Being a temporary scrivener was for me a nostalgic act and, as well, a means to have a direct interaction with passers-by. The scrivener writes in the public space and his or her writing is affected by the other, the client.
As the philosopher Alain Badiou states, love must be reinvented, but more importantly, it must be protected, because it is threatened by many fronts. Mexico, and many parts of the world, is currently experiencing alarming social situations where violence and gore showmanship are the currency of exchange for public discourse. What then can be elaborated from a public and written call to reflect on our ideas about love? Is love something more than the “romantic”? Can we think of love as a daily action? As a social setting? As a conscious act?
You need to forgive yourself. It is not always necessary to be the bravest woman alive. It is important to recognize that there are bigger matters than yourself. It is ok to say “I cannot take this challenge at the moment”. Not having done something doesn’t mean that you are a perpetual coward or that you are uncapable of realizing projects or challenge yourself. You need to forgive yourself for being afraid. Of course that you shouldn’t let fear dictate your life, but being afraid from time to time is also not the worse thing in the world. You need to let go and stop thinking of all the mistakes you’ve made out of fear in the course of your life. We all make mistakes and its from mistakes that we learn. I understand that it is hard to forgive after having made a decision because you will never know what would have happened if you had done otherwise. Be certain that thinking obsesivelly on the “what if?” can turn anyone crazy. There are paths in life, there are decisions and those decisions carve the life we live afterwards, but it is not only decisions that shape our lives but ourselves, our way of living, of breathing those decisions. One of the most valuable lessons is to let go. To understand that nothing is forever and that nothing belongs to you. The world is a fugitive on its own. It is ours for a moment and then it flees away. Nothing is forever, you need to repeat that to yourself. Above all, nothing is ever ours. Life is a fugitive gift. I know that you frequently say that you came to this world to learn, that sounds really beautiful, but you sometimes forget that learning is not always easy and that lessons are many times unexpected. It doesn’t help to fight against a lesson, to evade it, not to see it. A lesson that needs to be learned will come back in a different form, with a different face. Now I was expecting to learn about positioning myself, to express ideas, but I have come to realice that once more the lesson is that of self discovery, of self acceptance. I share this with you because I intuit that you are going through a similar experience. It seems that the time has come to stand infront of the mirror, to see ourselves as we truly are, to accept our mistakes, to like our talents, to understand our fears. Time has come to stop being a fugitive to ourselves, to life, to experiences, to forgiveness. Time has come for us to accept that life is a gift, I repeat, a fugitive gift.