Close to the port of Calais there is an area encompassing a few hundred square metres that is known as ‘The Jungle’. The people occupying this area have travelled many miles to get there, and their journey is still not at an end. Calais is the departure point for the final and most desirable crossing. There are thousands of people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria, all in search of a better life in Britain, the destination of their dreams.
While they await the opportunity to make the great crossing, they build temporary shelters: tent-like structures made of waste material from the immediate surroundings of the camp. In the best cases, the cultural characteristics of the country of origin can barely be distinguished in these.
The way in which the primary requirements of life are manifested in such shelters forms the leitmotif of this documentary photography project, for which I travelled extensively to Calais, the south of Spain, Dunkirk, Malta, Patras and Rome. For me, the image of the shelter – wherever it is in Europe – became the symbol of the misery these refugees experience.
All photos and text by Henk Wildschut. See project HERE
There is a circular hole in the wall, about 30-40 cm diameter and perforated at 1 meter above the ground. A man enters through the hole in the wall and a man (apparently the same individual) exits again through the same hole. His mate is standing right next to the hole and seems to be waiting for him. Yesterday I came across these pictures again. The enigmatic hole is the entrance to a room. It is a door that keeps you fit, elastic and flexible, if you want to discover what there is at the other side of the wall. Its dimension relies on the utmost reduction of a bending human body. And the erotic experience of penetrating it is intimately connected both to the materiality of the hole and the earthen texture of the wall. It is an intuitive understanding of a house as the shelter of a woman’s uterus. It requires thinking where to place first a leg, an arm, then a hand and a foot. But even if it looks like a perforation, as if material had been removed out of the massive surface, the hole was indeed already there before the wall was built all around it. It is incredibly mysterious when our iconic idea of a rectangular door mutates and becomes something else that defines a new type of threshold.
Below there is another door of Korongo houses that also fascinates me: the oversized threshold, shaped as a human-size keyhole. One discovers its meaningfulness after knowing that it lets villagers access the room while carrying two large jars with drinking water hanging from a stick over their shoulders.
George Rodger captured in his photographs the everyday lives of the Nuba people in Sudan in late 1940s, their houses, their wrestling combats with sharp-edge bracelets, and their aesthetic scars that adorn their bodies.
[photos by George Rodger in Village of the Nubas. Phaidon 1999]