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New project, new destination, new sketchbooks, new film…
My friends, what a trip !
Four weeks in immersion at the heart of nomadic life, wandering with a camel caravan between Chinguetti and the oasis of Terjit.
Ergs, dunes, palm groves, landscapes to take your breath away, herders, wonderful families…
Sometimes camping in the desert, sometimes with nomadic families…
Unforgettable encounters, tearful goodbyes, a lot of sketches and painting, superb photos, and magnificent videos…
And its lot of existential questions, of self-doubt…
In May/June 2018, we left for a new trip, with an all new project in the heart of the desert in Mauritania.
This project is the fruit of our meeting with Lolo and John, two talented travel photographers!
We’re gathering our disciplines to create a documentary film, as well as two books in the form of a travel sketchbook and a photography book. We’d like to offer a sensible and artistic immersion in the daily life of nomadic communities of the Adrar plateau, in the Mauritanian Sahara.
Akhdar, the salt of the desert will be directed, produced, and promoted by the three of us, Jérémie, Loïc, and Jonathan.
On location, my friend Ahmed Jiddou, which I’ve met during my trip to Africa on bicycle and which I’ve seen again many times since, will be our guide and translator during filming.
Under the pretense of following the path of salt, we’ll share the daily life of the men and women of the desert.
From the harvest from the coastal mines of Nouakchott, traded or sold in the markets, to its arrival in the semi-nomadic camps on dromedary back, we’ll taste the essence of this singular people.
The salt of life, the salt of sweat, the salt of tears…
In this land where life is fragile, are they the last witnesses of a people whose values and customs have an uncertain future?
Here’s a glimpse of our experience:
After a few days spend in Nouakchott, hosted by Ahmed’s family, we took to the desert road heading to Atar, then to Chinguetti, from where the travel on foot was to begin.
Five dromedaries carried tents, foodstuff, water supplies and luggage, led by our two cameleers, Ali and Mohammed.
Kacem, Ahmed’s younger brother, was part of the meharis as a cook for the whole team.
Out there, the temperature would be an average of 40 to 45 degrees Celsius once arrived in the desert of Adrar. The heated days would be tinted by slowness.
Up around 6 am, when the coolness in the air was still present, we would walk some 10 kilometers between dune cordons and rocky plateaus, until about 10 am, when we’d generally unpack the dromedaries near a well or a Khaimah, a nomad’s tent, met on the way.
Just enough time to call out a few greetings to the families which allowed us to set up our camp near them, and tea would flow freely after a large bowl of “zrig” (sweetened goat’s milk) the traveller’s drink, served to guests to quench their thirst.
From one pm to four pm, then the strongest head from the sun would crush any living being to the earth, time seemed to freeze and shady naps, under a tent or a thorny acacia, would sweep up most of us.
Life would resume slowly around 5 pm when the nomad herders who had left in the morning would come back, accompanied by their herds.
From then, helped with Ahmed as their translator, the work would begin, that of discovery and encounter, of their way of life and of the soothing observation of the desert’s silence.
Here we’d spend day and night among families: going to the well, sometimes half an hour away on foot, cooking, taking care of the animals, preparing meals, milking camels, making goat herds graze, weaving mats… and laughing, a lot.
The fire blazed as night fell and the warm bread cooked in the sand as the verbal jousting of the Mauritanian songs concluded a good meal. Under the stars, we would fall asleep with our feet in the sand under the last light of the final embers of the nocturnal dinner.
Tomorrow will be another day.