”I know the dangers of the journey. There is dead allalong the road.”
Boubacar,20-year-old clandestine migrant upon his departure towards Europe.
CLANDESTINE is a story aboutlife and death. It is the story of men who risk everything in order to providea better future for their families.
The project CLANDESTINE is an ongoing documentaryproject about clandestine migration from West Africa to Europe. It is aphotographic account of the long and perilous journey, undertaken by youngafrican men, through the vast expanses of the Sahara, across the hostile wavesof the ocean and into a foreign continent, Europe.
CLANDESTINE is an intimate investigationof men who must denounce themselves and become nobody in order to become somebodyand how, as the journey unfolds, they are progressively stripped from theirhuman rights and become naked livesor outcasts of modernity. In itsessence, CLANDESTINE is a projectabout prolonged human liminality. The immediate drama of the actual crossing ismirrored in a profound psychological and symbolic journey. The crossingrepresents a rite of transition, in which the youngmigrants become suspended in an existential no man’s land. Between adolescenceand adulthood. Between the familiar and the foreign. Between Africa and Europe.Between life and death.
CLANDESTINE portrays how themigrants navigate this marginal ‘space’ and how they cope with fear, loneliness,longing, shame and marginalisation during the journey, and in Europe. Thus, theproject is a critique of a world order, in which the poor, who are increasinglyconstrained in their mobility, are forced to become ‘illegal’ in order to supporttheir families.
This projectbegan in 2006 when I did an international master in human rights in relation toundocumented migrants. I travelled to West Africa and followed a group of youngmen on their clandestine journey from their native village in northwestern Malito Paris, France. In 2007 and 2008, I returned to Paris to visit some of thosewho made the journey. In 2009 I returned to West Africa, and I am presently inParis, France working closely with a small group of ’undocumented’ migrants toportray their everyday life, and the constant fear of the police, theimmigration authorities as well as their yearning for their families, and theirhomes in Africa.
Later this year,I plan to return to the Kayes region in northeastern Mali to visit families ofthe departed, parents, wives and children who are ’left behind’. My focus willbe to document not only the effects of migrant remittances, but in a moreprofound way, how it is to live without the presence or even knowledge of thewhereabouts, of one’s son, husband, brother or father.
The end-productis a book containing images and text essays with a strong focus on thenarratives and life stories of the migrants and their families as well as theirpersonal maps, drawings, poems, diaries, e-mail correspondances, family photosand newspaper clippings. The book will contain two separate but mutuallyinterrelated components: the actual images and visual components, as well as anupdated and re-edited version of my master’s thesis on human rights andclandestine migration. That way, the project will appeal equally to academicand non-academic audiences. To the general public as well as human rightsprofessionals and political decision-makers at large.