Rahima Gambois one of the 25 photographers shortlisted for the 2020 CAP Prize for Contemporary African Photography.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about filmmaker Trinh Minh-Ha’s phrase “speaking nearby” as a way to describe the visual approach of the Tatsuniya series. The intent wasn’t to directly approach my subject to extract usable information or to affirm a position in a traditional way, but rather to turn curiosities to the things that happen around the making of these images.
The bonds and frictions between my subjects and I, the mistakes and throw away gestures made when the camera keeps recording, the invisible things learned and encountered that make no sense at that moment and do not particularly lead to a coherent end result. The residues of this energy of collective making, where lines are blurred, and visual thoughts and authorship is open-ended, ongoing and unfinished makes most of the form of in the ongoing Tatsuniya series.
The first photographs of Tatsuniya (2017) were about exploring the third space of collective memory, playfulness, and youth. It was an experiment with improvised prompts to weave the visual narrative together, making it something other than documentary through contestation and a pivoting away.
In Tatsuniya II (2019), by using a workshop framework as a starting point for making the images, I wanted to explore further how to collaborate better with the students I was photographing to integrate them as participants and collaborators in the creative process.
The ensuing images created from the workshop continued with certain themes from Tatsuniya I using intuitive and improvisational strategies, referencing children’s games, lines of poetry, and exercises from a textbook called “Physical Education for Secondary School Students” as a loose framework for weaving the narrative together.
Tatsuniya is about the intangible things that happen when you bring a group of young women together and hold a space for creative expression to come through. It doesn’t find an easy point of departure from the often-cited trauma: the Boko Haram conflict that has inflicted on the young. The series is about creating a space to be present with the present, about plotting an area for playful interaction where something undefined can be stimulated.