Plastic canisters of 20L are omnipresent in the Sine-Saloum Delta, Senegal. They are mainly imported from Gambia as palm oil canisters and then reused and remodified in various ways. Thereby, the canisters represent, take part in and materially inherit a range of processes of extraction and dispossession in different world regions and relate various actors – human and more-than-human – to each other. And as tangible and quotidian, yet always malleable objects, they offer themselves to convey these processes and relations into the exhibitive realm.
In colonialised Morocco and Tunisia in the early 1930s, the ‘salvage accumulation’ (Tsing 2015) and re-use of canisters for housing at the edges of cities brought forth the term “Bidonville”. A Francophone attribution, it marked the creators and inhabitants of these places as the other, impure and dispossessed, and pushed them out to a peripheral life.
Nowadays, peripheries and centres increasingly fragment, precarities intertwine and nature-culture divides collapse. Distinct but at the same time interdependent worlds in the sense that emergent assemblages constitute. Petrol- and palm oil production are major drivers of fragmentation and intertwinement as well as of environmental ruination. Following these viscous materials can guide our quest to inquire, critique and contest such processes and relate them to each other.
Conveyed through the term “Bidonmondes” – a globalised and indeed charged offspring of Bidonvilles – and with paying homage to the oeuvre of Romuald Hazoumé – this work sensuously explores some of the products and residues of the Plantationocene (Haraway 2016) and the agentive (re-)uses and (re-)modifications by those who live with and within them in the Sine-Saloum Delta.
Conceptualised as an installation and now transposed into the increasingly digital worlds of the Covid-19 pandemic, Bidonmondes follows the various applications of plastic canisters in the delta – their use as palm oil, water and petrol canisters and their re-modification into and use as dustbins, sieves, and burning material. The work reconfigures, enlarges and contrasts imagery and sound: on the one hand, the imagery and sound of uses and re-modifications of canisters in the Sine-Saloum Delta. On the other hand, the canisters’ inherited sound: Malaysian logging, palm oil cutting, palm oil industry advertisement, petrol industry advertisement for offshore drilling near the delta, motor boat use, and petrol production. These different material and symbolic makings and re-makings of palm oil and petrol are explored across six ‘bumpy’ audio-visual loops. Their individual arrhythmicity and possible sequencing into one imperfect cycle point towards the unfulfilling human desire for infinite (re)production within a finite, increasingly wrecked world.
Haraway, Donna (2016) Staying With the Trouble. Duke University Press.
Tsing, Anna (2015) The Mushroom at the End of the World. Princeton University Press.
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