Report made during a study visit on the practices developed by traditional healers in certain African therapeutic communities in the Casamance forest. This work was made possible thanks to the recommendations of Professor Colomb, one of the pioneers in social psychiatry and founder of the “School of Dakar”, who was nicknamed “the great white wizard” in Africa.
Opening: 2nd Nov 4.30pm to 7.00pm
Venue: Centre d’Art , Citadine, Auroville,India.
The poster of the photographic exhibition of Francine Finck may be thought of as a door with a sign saying something like: Restricted Access – Authorized Personnel only.
The picture represents a mask with undefined traits, somehow animal traits, worn by someone of whom one can see only the thin body wrapped in a thick sweater. The hands move toward the mouth of the mask with a weird gesture, as if they wanted to remove something that is disturbing. Under the picture, the caption reads: “The disturbing weirdness”.
The title of the exhibition is ‘Psychiatric villages of traditional therapy in Senegal – photographic archive’.
The photos were taken in the 80s, when the photographer and her sister Marie Odile, who had recently graduated in psychiatry, were admitted into a very special world: the world of the mental illness, of the rites, of the healers, of the spirits.
Other doors opened up.
Behind the mask is a force, a presence. In Senegal, the spirits guide the world of the living. They can carry, release, or possess someone.
The photographer gets closer to try and see even beyond. What is behind those faces sometimes frozen by the illness, what is behind the bodies violently shaken by the wreck of life and left there in broken pieces?
In a rigorous black and white, she questions the people, both the suffering and the care providers – the pharmacist, beautiful as a lying lion, the marabou, whose face is but another mask, the lost man, staring at the ground.
She takes the pictures of couples: the patient and the nurse, the two friends, the spouses.
Then the pictures of groups of people, both posing and not posing, while they work or during their breaks.
In the portraits where people are not alone, we can see the joy that flows, the complicity, the recognition of the other.
And all around is this magnificent nature, these trees that are so powerful, so inhabited – it seems impossible, in such a scenario, to have to make a choice between deep despair and forgiveness.
Ultimately, it is a kind of investigation on the human condition, following which Francine got to Kénia and Mawa in 1980. An investigation of what is the instinct or the culture within us, of the fact that an individual is not alone in himself, of the role of the other and that of the invisible, which concurs to the healing.
Everything is filtered through her truly personal perspective: that of the depth of field.
Dominique Jacques, October2019