Joana Choumali Ça va aller
I took these pictures 3 weeks after the terrorist attacks in Grand Bassam on Sunday March 13th, 2016. Bassam is my refuge, the place i go to unwind and to be by myself. At one hour drive from Abidjan, Bassam is a place full of history, a quiet and peaceful little town where Ivorians go on holidays on the weekends. Bassam reminds me of insouciance, all these childhood Sunday afternoons I used to spend with my loved ones on this same beach where the attacks took place. To me, Bassam was a synonym of happiness, until that day.
Three weeks after the attacks, the atmosphere of the little town changed. A "saudade", some kind of melancholy invaded the town. I decided to wander the silent empty streets and I chose to leave my reflex behind and shoot with my iPhone instead: I did not want to intrude people’s intimacy and disrupt their morning. I didn’t feel like a photographer in that moment, detached by the place, as I myself felt part of the wounded inhabitants. Most of the pictures show empty places, and people by themselves, walking in the streets or just standing, sitting alone, lost in their thoughts.
In Côte d’Ivoire, people do not discuss their psychological issues, or feelings. A post-traumatic state is often considered as weakness or a mental disease. People hardly talk about their feelings, and each conversation is quickly shortened by a resigned "ça va aller". "Ça va aller" is a typical Ivorian expression which means "it will be ok", used for everything, even for situations that are not going to be ok. This work is a way to address the way Ivorian people deal with trauma and mental health. The attacks re-opened the mental wounds left by the post electoral war of 2011. Back home I felt the need to process this pain and I discovered that I could do so through embroidery.
Each stitch was a way to recover, to lie down the emotions, the loneliness, and mixed feelings I felt. As an automatic scripture, the act of adding colourful stitches on the pictures has had a soothing effect on me, like a meditation. Adding embroidery on these street photographs was an act of channeling hope and resilience.
About the author
1974, Côte d'Ivoire
Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire
Joana Choumali studied graphic arts in Casablanca, Morocco, and worked as an art director in an advertising agency before embarking on her photography career.
Her work concentrates on conceptual portraits, mixed media and documentary photography with a particular focus on Africa. In her latest work, Choumali embroiders directly onto her images, completing the act of creating the photograph image with a slow and meditative gesture. Choumali has exhibited her work at the Museum of Civilisations, Abidjan; Vitra Design Museum, Basel; Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden, Marrakech; Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam; Bamako Encounters Photography Biennial; Photoquai Biennial, Paris; Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town among others.
In 2014, Choumali won the CAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography and the 2014 LensCulture Emerging Talents Award. In 2016, she received the Magnum Foundation Emergency Grant and the Fourthwall Books Photobook Award in South Africa. In 2017, she exhibited her series Translation and Adorn at the Pavilion of Côte d’Ivoire during the Venice Biennale. Her work has been published in the international press including CNN; The New York Times; Le Monde; The Guardian; The Huffington Post; La Stampa among others.
Her book Hââbré was published in Johannesburg in 2016.
Joana Choumali, Ça va aller, 2016-2019
Shahidul Alam, Still She Smiles, 2014
Margaret Courtney-Clarke, Cry Sadness into the Coming Rain, 2014 - 2018
Rena Effendi, Transylvania: Built on Grass, 2012
Lucas Foglia, Human Nature, 2006 – 2019
Janelle Lynch, Another Way of Looking at Love, 2015-2018
Gideon Mendel, A Testament of Faded Memory, 2016
Ross McDonnell, Limbs, 2012
Ivor Prickett, End of the Caliphate, 2016 - 2018
Robin Rhode, Principle of Hope, 2017
Awoiska van der Molen, Am schwarzen Himmelsrund, 2010-2018
Alexia Webster, Street Studios, 2011-2018