”I know the dangers of the journey. There is dead all
along the road.”
20-year-old clandestine migrant upon his departure towards Europe.
CLANDESTINE is a story about
life and death. It is the story of men who risk everything in order to provide
a better future for their families.
The project CLANDESTINE is an ongoing documentary
project about clandestine migration from West Africa to Europe. It is a
photographic account of the long and perilous journey, undertaken by young
african men, through the vast expanses of the Sahara, across the hostile waves
of the ocean and into a foreign continent, Europe.
CLANDESTINE is an intimate investigation
of men who must denounce themselves and become nobody in order to become somebody
and how, as the journey unfolds, they are progressively stripped from their
human rights and become naked lives
or outcasts of modernity. In its
essence, CLANDESTINE is a project
about prolonged human liminality. The immediate drama of the actual crossing is
mirrored in a profound psychological and symbolic journey. The crossing
represents a rite of transition, in which the young
migrants become suspended in an existential no man’s land. Between adolescence
and adulthood. Between the familiar and the foreign. Between Africa and Europe.
Between life and death.
CLANDESTINE portrays how the
migrants navigate this marginal ‘space’ and how they cope with fear, loneliness,
longing, shame and marginalisation during the journey, and in Europe. Thus, the
project is a critique of a world order, in which the poor, who are increasingly
constrained in their mobility, are forced to become ‘illegal’ in order to support
began in 2006 when I did an international master in human rights in relation to
undocumented migrants. I travelled to West Africa and followed a group of young
men on their clandestine journey from their native village in northwestern Mali
to Paris, France. In 2007 and 2008, I returned to Paris to visit some of those
who made the journey. In 2009 I returned to West Africa, and I am presently in
Paris, France working closely with a small group of ’undocumented’ migrants to
portray their everyday life, and the constant fear of the police, the
immigration authorities as well as their yearning for their families, and their
homes in Africa.
Later this year,
I plan to return to the Kayes region in northeastern Mali to visit families of
the departed, parents, wives and children who are ’left behind’. My focus will
be to document not only the effects of migrant remittances, but in a more
profound way, how it is to live without the presence or even knowledge of the
whereabouts, of one’s son, husband, brother or father.
is a book containing images and text essays with a strong focus on the
narratives and life stories of the migrants and their families as well as their
personal maps, drawings, poems, diaries, e-mail correspondances, family photos
and newspaper clippings. The book will contain two separate but mutually
interrelated components: the actual images and visual components, as well as an
updated and re-edited version of my master’s thesis on human rights and
clandestine migration. That way, the project will appeal equally to academic
and non-academic audiences. To the general public as well as human rights
professionals and political decision-makers at large.