Bagamoyo is a small town on the Indian Ocean, sixty kilometres north of Dar es Salaam, the main city of Tanzania. This documentary series attempts to translate an intense, distressing experience, which remained implicit throughout my wanderings. The signs of history were recorded on the built and natural environments –silent witnesses to the past. My notes from March 2016 read:
Bagamoyo used to be the Prison of Africa, the last place captured slaves would see before being deported away from Africa, to Zanzibar, and then to the Arabic peninsula, Europe, and Asia. In the historic core, built by Omani sultans and taken over by the Germans, the coral stone edifices still stand, empty and silent, in the humid glow of the tropics. There are spectres around here; cemeteries, black magic statuettes and a hangman’s tree. But the history of man, now, is reclaimed by the trees. From around the Indian Ocean, coconut palms, musa (banana) trees and sacred ficus were brought on the dhow boats of Arab and Indian traders. After decades, they have started to take over, growing from the sand and the stones, upwards, transforming the trauma into slow melancholia.’ This travel was part of a transnational exchange program between artists, students and researchers from Germany and Tanzania, focusing on counter-narratives and urban heritage from below.
Diane Barbé is a photographer and researcher based in Berlin. She brings into focus the oddities and symbolism present in our environments before they become historical or disappear, working at the intersection of the arts, architecture, and urbanism. Her work in Tanzania is an attempt to share an experience beyond imagination, reinventing the role of the storyteller as one who brings into focus the visual prose of unnoticed spaces. Using series to weave narratives, her photographs are linked to specific geographies, their atmospheres, their sous-entendus. They trace the stories of communities and cities, humans and nature, exploring the sense of place through the flight of time. What will remain of these instants in our memory?