‘Sowing Somankidi Coura, a Generative Archive’ is a long-term research endeavour by Raphaël Grisey in collaboration with Bouba Touré. The project investigates the permaculture and archives of Somankidi Coura, a self-organized agricultural cooperative along the Senegal River that was founded in 1977, after the Sahel drought of 1973, by a group of former African migrant workers and activists in France.
‘Sowing Somankidi Coura’ unfolds and generates cinematic geographies that reveal the boundaries between the liberation struggles of migrant workers in France, the pan-African history of the cooperative and the potentials of permaculture. Through a practice of film, archiving, publication, workshop and theatre, the installation engages in the articulation of liberation narratives, collective care and peasant alliances. The aim of the project is the denaturalisation and decolonization of development politics.
Sowing Somankidi Coura – a Generative Archive
The installation for Contour Biennale consists of several films and a display of selected reference material and archival artefacts. The first film to be screened is ‘The River and the Desert’, an assemblage of colonial film archives, INA archives, satellite imagery and aerial photography from 1966 to 2016. The images show infrastructures of soil, data, bodies, water and seed extraction along the Senegal River. Another video in the installation, ‘Safrana or Freedom of Speech’, is a film by Sidney Sokhona from 1977, which recounts the everyday lives of four immigrants and their experiences in factories. Through flashbacks you witness them heading to the French countryside to meet farmers in preparation for their return to Africa. This film is an interpretation of the story of the ACTAF1, the group that founded the cooperative Somankidi Coura. After years of struggle for better living and working conditions and after witnessing the Sahel drought and famine of 1973, they decided to train on French farms before returning to the Sahel to run farms themselves. Bouba Touré, a co-founder of the cooperative, plays himself in the film. Finally the film ‘Xeex Bi Du Jeex – A Luta Continua’, will be shown on a third screen. This footage resulted from a theatre workshop held in Dakar in 2018 with Bouba Touré, Raphaël Grisey and Kàddu Yaraax. The workshop consisted of conversations with Bouba Touré about the Somankidi Coura cooperative archives, followed by improvisations with methods from the Theatre of the Oppressed and the writing of a script.
ACTAF is short for the Cultural Association of African Workers in France. ↩