Tamba: Senegal's migration starting point – photo essay

People of Tamba is a project by the Italian artist Giovanni Hänninen, consisting of 200 portraits taken across the Tambacounda region in Senegal and accompanied by Senegal/Sicily, a series of documentaries created with the film-maker Alberto Amoretti, courtesy of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and Le Korsa

People of Tamba, inspired by German photographer August Sander’s seminal work, People of the 20th Century, was conceived as a catalogue of the society of Tambacounda, the largest city in the most remote and rural region of Senegal, and the point of departure for the majority of Senegalese migration.

Gagnesseri Seck | Waitress

Bassirou Ndao | Music Shop Owner

Gagnesseri Seck, waitress

Bassirou Ndao, music shop owner

Tamba 1

Samba Sow, tailor

Simon Faye, grapefruit seller

The series portrays various professionals – from doctors and bankers to teachers and farmers – in their work environments to highlight their roles and contribution to society.

This dignified series of portraits aims to counter negative and number-based reporting about migration in western media by bringing individuals and their personal stories to the fore.

Tamba 3

Cheikh Faye, shoe seller

Mouhamadou Camara, bicycle repairer

Tamba 5

Adamo Diallo, cotton farmer

M.me Ngom, elementary school teacher

M.me Ngom is one of two teachers at the elementary school in Sinthian, where about 120 children attend, and due to shortage of teachers she teaches two classes together at the same time.

When Giovanni met her, Adama was picking cotton in a small family field together with her husband, her sister and two nephews. Le Korsa funded the installation of bore-wells outfitted with solar-powered pumps in each village, which provides year-round access to water and helps growing through the harsh dry season.

Also featured as part of this project are architectural and landscape images of street installations of the portraits exhibited in key migration destinations in Africa and Europe, including Dakar, Marrakech, Berlin and Milan.

In each location, large-scale photographs were printed and displayed across the city, where people could appreciate the pictures and see themselves reflected in their own society.

The photographic project is accompanied by Senegal/Sicily, which is a series of short documentaries created with the Italian film-maker Alberto Amoretti. Both projects aim to explore different aspects of clandestine migration.

Senegal/Sicily: Alpha/Aisadou


The first documentary of the series is a dialogue between a mother, Aisadou, speaking from her village in the east part of Senegal, and her son Alpha in Sicily, who has left home to find a better future. Aisadou lives in Sinthian, a village in Tambacounda. This is where the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation built Thread, a community centre and artists’ residence.

Aisadou and her son Alpha

Aisadou and her son Alpha

Alpha lives in Mazzarino, a small town in the centre of Sicily. Mother and son talk about their hopes and their regrets; Aisadou talks of her worries as a mother and Alpha about the hardships he has faced.

The documentaries each feature the experiences, dreams and reflections of migrants and their relatives who remained in Senegal. These include the monologues of Aisadou and Alpha, discussions with migrant residents of San Berillo in Catania and interviews with families of migrants who died at sea.

“After screening in Sinthian, we met a man who had begun to save money to start the trip. Now we don’t know what happened to him, but what it is important is that after seeing the film, he reconsidered,” Hänninen says.

A screening in Tambacounda.
A screening in Tambacounda. Photograph: Giovanni Hänninen
  • A screening in Tambacounda.

The project wants to show to the young people of Tambacounda who are considering leaving a sincere account of the risks of the voyage and the reality of those who made it to Europe.

Senegal/Sicily: The Young Women of Le Foyer

Young Women of Le Foyer

Le Foyer de Jeunes Filles in Tambacounda is a home for girls and young women who come to the city to attend secondary school. Coming from villages that only have primary schools, the girls find a safe place to live while they complete their education. If it was not for Le Foyer, they would have abandoned their studies and, most likely, remained in their villages and married underage. The girls at Le Foyer talk about their desire to get the training they need to help their country. They not only want to graduate, but also to become leaders of a new Senegal.

Young women of Tamba

Khadidiatou Nadya and Khady Camara, young women of Le Foyer

Khadidiatou had to fight to get the permission from her father to finish her schooling to become a nurse. She helps the family with her small savings from her scholarship and her part-time job as tutor at the Foyer de Jeunes Filles. She is the only one in a family of 16 sons to be allowed to have access to secondary school. One of her brothers decided to leave illegally Senegal and reach Europe. At the time of the interview, he was kept in refugee camp in Sicily, waiting for papers.

To help disseminate the message of the films, the Albers Foundation and Le Korsa have launched a series of film screenings and discussions throughout the Tambacounda region, specifically targeting remote and rural areas. The screenings unite families, teachers and local leaders in dialogue about the experiences of migrants, and how the financial resources devoted to migration may be better used to improve life locally.

A screening in Dakar
A screening in Dakar Photograph: Giovanni Hänninen
  • One of the screenings in Dakar.

The Josef and Anni Albers Foundation and Le Korsa will display a selection of images and films from both projects at Also Known as Africa (AKAA) art and design fair held in Paris, 9-11 November 2019.

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