Photo exhibition


Emerging within the context of the NEW ABC pilot action Empowerment of errant unaccompanied minors in situations of errant mobility through multimodal co-creation, implemented by the French partner COMBO,  two photographic series were created by unaccompanied minors in situations of errant mobility. They explore the link between visibility and empowerment of the protagonist subjects/photographers at crucial points in their trajectories. The ones, young Moroccan people, portray themselves in black and white in the Spanish exclave of Melilla, the gateway to Europe on the other side of the Mediterranean, while we find in colour the others, a group of kids arriving from sub-Saharan countries, who have arrived, after a long and difficult trajectory, in Marseille, which they wish to be their final destination.

Within the pilot action activities, COMBO conducted a multimodal workshop that included initiations into different artistic practices that stimulate reflexivity, such as photography, rap, and video-making, as well as educational activities of immediate interest to the youth, such as workshops on bridging the digital divide, but also training on children’s rights, first aid, and harm reduction related to drug use.

The resulting exhibition showcases two photographic series made by workshop participants in the Spanish exclave of Melilla and in Marseille, France. The participants, for the first time dealing with an SLR camera, took turns in front of and behind the lens experimenting with different portrait configurations. After each session, the results were reviewed and discussed in the group, and in this manner gradually took shape the two series presented here.

The exhibition was produced to travel around the NEW ABC consortium partners’ countries, and it has been shown in several cities so far, such as Forlì (Italy), Krakow (Poland)…

Now we also wish to make it available online for everyone. Click on any picture to open the gallery. Enjoy!

Photo series 1: Kids in Melilla

Photographers: Ayoub, Mawkli, Ilyass, Abdellah, Redwane, Yassine T, Mowahcine, Yassine Z, Yassine H, Abdeltif, Mohamed.

Workshop leader: Charlotte Menin

The young people who participated in the NEW ABC workshop in Melilla call themselves Harraga, which in the Maghrebi dialect means “those who burn borders” and designates young migrants who leave for Europe without visas. They come from a variety of regions in North Africa and have different socio-cultural backgrounds, but they all identify with this community of diaspora. They come into adulthood with ideals of freedom and individual fulfilment and aspire to access material wealth that the geopolitical order would tend to preclude. The crossing of borders, that of the Mediterranean, is not only physical but also symbolic and casts itself on the transition to adulthood.
Very active on social media, teenagers are also imbued with new visual languages, such as those of the TikTok app with its filters for shaping the image of self and reality.
Made to be displayed in the streets of the exclave where they were waiting to succeed in boarding hidden in the ferries to Spain, the subjects are detached from the background, rising from the virtual dimension of the digital photo to reinsert themselves in the physical one of the spaces in which they transit with their bodies always in danger. Thus they assert themselves in the fleeting visibility of paper glued to the walls of the city from which they discreetly attempt to leave.

One can see shots in which the acrobatics emanate the dynamism of elastic bodies in motion, always on the alert, elegant in the lines their limbs draw in the images, between fight, flight and dance. Sometimes they use accessories, such as those related to the sea: fins, mask and snorkel or even a float ring, reminding us that most of them reached the Spanish exclave by swimming several kilometers along the Moroccan coast. It is also a way to commemorate the disappearance of some of their companions who did not make it out of the sea.
A final group of images, shows stylized interactions drawn from the daily street life. For example, the fact of always being exposed to the gaze of others as translated by the two characters imitating gossipy individuals. Or the episodes of violence, omnipresent in the street, brought together in a triptych. These are declined into violence perpetrated on the one hand and violence suffered by one’s peers on the other, while the central place is occupied by violence suffered by adults.
In the months following the workshop, all participants made it to Spain and some continued their trajectory to other European countries.

Photo series 2: Kids in Marseille

Photographers: Soulayman, Ousmane T., Emmanuel, Aboubacar, Foday, Mohamed C, Jean-Yannik, Mamadou, Moussa, Ousmane D., Adama, Abdoulaye, Mohamed D, Kerfalla.

Workshop leaders: Charlotte Menin and Zakaria Bouatir

From West African countries, some crossed Libya and the Mediterranean in makeshift boats, suffered violence, traumatic events, and some torture. Others passed through Morocco and boarded the Atlantic to reach the Canary Islands. They clung to the idea that migration would multiply possible futures and knew that children in Europe are protected by the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC 89/90). Having arrived in France, often their dream destination, after a cursory assessment by child protection workers, they were not recognized as minors and were excluded from protection arrangements. They found themselves roaming the streets of Marseille, alone. An informal collective of volunteers provided them with a crumbling housing space, a clinging point to hold on to so they would not sink into the cement of the streets while waiting for the result of the juvenile court appeal. The waiting can last several months, and when it comes to being recognized as minors, the passage of time is certain to work against them. The kids struggle to find enough to support themselves, cannot go to school as they would like, and are undermined by the uncertainty of the future.
The medium of photography becomes a way to explore this condition of hanging time. Living and urban space is explored as if it were a space of arrival, where a new life could begin. But nothing is certain; the exploration remains the performance of the self in space, highlighted by masks from a theater’s inventory.
Unlike the series made by the boys from Melilla, which shows in each photo the dynamic movement of those at the beginning of their trajectory, the Marseille photos have a pictorial, tableaux-like stillness, in which the sometimes sumptuous sometimes dingy urban set or the crumbling interiors of home welcome the mostly quiet protagonists, whose stillness renders the uncertain waiting explicit.
After several months of waiting, most of them won their appeals, thus being able to return to the shelters and start going to school.