” If only I could stop the time. Hold it for a while. Keep it and then release like I do when practicing meditation. How beautiful and powerful is to take that time for ourselves, slowing it down and observe it. Observe what your mind is thinking, where it takes you to.
Stone Town in Zanzibar has a similar effect on me despite I have been here many times.
Every time it is like the first time.
I inhale the breeze and follow the flow. I breathe at the rhythm of the town. Wandering through the labyrinth of streets, mosques and houses, busy during the day and calm in early morning, I observe the daily life of locals through antique doors only open few centimeters. . I observe shadows stretching themselves as the sun set on the horizon. I read a book at the edge of the ocean observing the boats floating on it. I inhale the barbecue -scented breeze. I hunt down second-hand bookstores and antique shops.
Once at home, I settle in, lay down on my bed, open my book and listen the muezzin at the mosque calling upon the faithful to pray and the bells of the Cathedral.
As an article I read time ago said ” It feels like being perched in a scene of the Arabian Nights”.
– Giorgio Faedo, Italy-
(from Chapter 11: The Color of Night, Abeche 2006)
by Julie R. Dargis
Rebels roamed the dusty streets of Abeche, a small desert town located midway along the border with the state of West Darfur in neighboring Sudan. Each morning, tanks rolled out of the nearby military encampment to conduct exercises when they were not being deployed along the border. International organizations had stopped using pickup trucks following a rash of vehicle thefts in the city, opting instead to travel in small, unmarked rental cars. Roadblocks, open conflict, and attempted coups were frequent during the dry season. Insecurity continued through the rainy season unless there were particularly heavy rains.
I received a message from the home office. The team in communications was working with a celebrity who was trying to get into Darfur. He was slated to speak at a rally in Washington, DC, and he wanted to talk with the displaced populations in the region before the event to give voice to their concerns. George Clooney wasn’t able to obtain a visa for Sudan, so he asked to travel to Chad to meet with the refugees from Darfur living across the border.
There had been a number of troop movements up and down the border area, and we were under lockdown in Abeche from dusk to dawn. I would be able to charter a private plane through a French pilot that I knew; he had flown another celebrity to at least two of the camps along the border two years earlier. But there would be issues getting the celebrity into the country, and he would be traveling with his father.
A conference call with George Clooney and his father was scheduled. The senior management team from headquarters would be on the call with me. I also expected that a number of other staff would be listening in. The call was arranged during the morning hours in the US. In my time zone, it was six in the evening.
As curfew approached I checked my e-mail, clicking on a message from my brother. He wanted me to know that my mother was in the intensive care unit at the hospital. She had had an issue with her heart that had deteriorated the day before, and her doctor had called the family into the hospital to say their good-byes.
My mother had never had trouble with her heart before. I thought of the few times in my childhood that she had fallen ill as a result of overwork. More than once, pneumonia had forced her to stop and rest when nothing else had been able to slow her down. I closed my laptop and looked out of the window of my small office. In less than an hour, I was slated to be on the phone with George Clooney and his father.
I called my brother.
“Mom’s doing better,” he said.
The family was at her side. She had regained her strength during the night. As my brother continued with his update, Neil arrived to take me home.
“Thanks for letting me know, Teddy,” I said. “I’m sorry, but it’s almost curfew, and I really need to go.”
When Neil and I pulled up to his compound, the guard opened the gate. But before we entered, the guard put his arm up, signaling us to wait. The metal gate closed. When the gate reopened the guard was leaning over, holding onto the thin horns of the springbok that had been adopted by the pilots who lived in the house. Once inside the compound, I asked Neil to update me on any issues related to air travel. I had confirmed the chartered plane earlier that day, outlining alternative routes with the pilot. I also had met with the senior staff to draft a security briefing in preparation for the call. I gathered my notes, went outside with the satellite phone, and opened the door to Neil’s truck. Leaning against the side of the front seat, I pointed the antennae of the satellite phone toward the sky, rotating it at various angles until I had five bars of reception. As I dialed into the conference call, the numbers on the keypad were illuminated in a soft, yellow-gold light. I punched in the conference code for the call and was greeted by a roomful of home office staff. Nick Clooney was added to the call, and I introduced myself.
“How are you?” I asked him.
His voice was warm, but gruff. “My arm hurts,” he said.
I laughed. “What happened?” I asked.
“I got all these damn shots today,” he replied.
We needed to wait; George Clooney’s assistant was still arranging for him to take the call. We were told that he was on his way to his office from one of the lots in Hollywood where he was attending a meeting. I looked up at the stars. The Southern Cross, my favorite constellation, hung low along the horizon, threatening to slip away.
“Don’t worry, you’ll feel better soon,” I said to Nick Clooney. “The pain from the yellow fever shot is sharp at first, but it’ll go away by the end of the day.”
“A shot of Maker’s Mark should do the trick,” he said.
“He’s ready, he’s here, let’s go,” an unknown voice barked into the phone.
There was a pause.
I recognized the voice.
“Hi, everyone, sorry I’m late.”
A senior staff member from the home office welcomed George Clooney to the call. I was asked to give a briefing.
“Hi, everyone,” I said. “I’m going to give you an update on what’s happening here on the ground and then we can talk about some options.”
When I had finished with the briefing, George Clooney commented on the situation in the region. He was well versed on the issues on both sides of the border. In my work, I only focused on the area of operation that I was managing.
“I know that you’re not going to want to hear this, but there’ve been some troop movements that may not allow you to come into the country as planned,” I said. “There’s talk of a coup in the capital, but we should know within a few days if it’ll be safe for you to come out or not.”
I provided context on the living arrangements in the remote site that George and his father would be visiting.
“There’s one thing that I think that you both should know,” I said. “The site where you’ll be staying is very remote, and it’s not very comfortable.”
We had built a rudimentary compound with twenty small rooms, each with a cot. The staff shared two latrines and two outdoor showers, located at the far end of the compound. Each day, the temperatures hovered around one hundred and ten degrees Fahrenheit. In the evenings during the dry season, the temperature only dropped to ninety degrees. In the rainy season, it became cold at night.
“No problem,” said George Clooney. “I spent a few days with a couple of buddies in the desert once.”
I had seen the movie he had filmed in the desert, and I imagined the fully stocked trailer with air conditioning that he had no doubt returned to after shooting each scene. There would be no trailers where he was going.
“Okay,” I said. “But I have to say, from the bottom of my heart, we all appreciate what you’ll be doing out here.”
“When I won my Oscar,” he said, “my father told me that I needed to use my celebrity for the greater good.”
“Well, then we’re lucky,” I said. “The refugees need someone with your stature to give voice to their issues. Thank you so much.”
He needed to go.
“Good-bye, everyone,” he said. “Good-bye, Pop.”
His father was asked to stay on the line to finalize logistics for the trip.
“Well, somebody’s going to hear it from me if we’re not able to go out there because of a coup,” Nick Clooney said. It was the first time that he had spoken since his son had joined the call. “I already got these damn shots!” he added.
For the second time that day, I laughed.
“It’s nothing that a bottle of Maker’s Mark won’t take care of,” I said.
The next day, I called my mother. She told me that she was feeling better; her blood pressure had stabilized. We laughed together as I recounted the conversation that I had had with Nick and George Clooney.
“Do you know how proud of you that I am?” she asked.
“Mom, come on,” I said.
“I understand how his father feels. It’s important to support your children even if they go somewhere you don’t want them to go,” she said. “I think it’s admirable that his father is going out to Chad with him.”
“Me too, Mom,” I said.
Over the following days, my mother’s condition improved. I was in touch with her every day as I continued to monitor the security situation in preparation for the Clooney visit.
“I spoke to my mother,” I said during my daily management call with the home office. “She’s doing much better.”
The senior team was concerned, however, that I would not be able to manage the visit adequately if my mother’s condition took a turn for the worse. I reiterated that she was fine. Even so, an emergency staff member was appointed to take over for me, and I was free to go home.
I was sitting in my mother’s bedroom, talking with her as she rested. In the background, Oprah came on to promote her daytime talk show.
“Today, we will be speaking with a celebrity who has just returned from a place that is so secret he can’t even tell you where he’s been.” The promo rang on, “Next! On Oprah.”
I looked over at my mother.
“I know where he was,” I said.
When George Clooney came on, he discussed his findings and showed footage and photographs of the remote site where he and his father had met with the refugees. The dust swirled over his head as he stood in the open pickup truck, filming. He had fallen ill while he was away. I wondered about his father.
“I should’ve been there, Mom,” I said. “I bet he drank the water at the site. I don’t even do that.”
A few weeks later, a colleague from the home office who had traveled with George and Nick Clooney sent me a file of the photos she had taken during the visit. Later that day, I received a separate message with a single photo. I clicked on the attachment. In the photograph, two men stood squinting into the sun. One was wearing a flap jacket, the other a smile. I leaned in closer to read the handwritten message on the piece of paper that they were holding up between them: Julie, wish you were here.
This is a project that was born to try to catch glimpses of genuine and beautiful complicity in everyday life.
What is complicity?
For me it’s that fine line of a large web that holds humanity. Every time we interact with someone, we weave a web of complicity which can take many forms. In its most positive and sincere form, it can be found represented in an embrace between mother and son, between father and daughter and a chat between an elder and a youth. It is also expressed among friends, in a caress, in a look, a smile, a tear and silence. It lasts just for a moment but has a timeless impact.
Moments are difficult to grasp, impossible to keep. We often don’t recognise them, but they happen every day in front of our eyes. The web of complicity is woven unnoticed. In silence. Those moments happen discretely yet I was able to capture some through my camera. With the lens, I like to stop and watch life happening around me. I share this common space with people whom, like me, are in transit: coming and going to an unknown future. There are those who dream and those who make plans, there are those who live for the present, others in the future. I was there to share those moments with people like me, but also with people who have lived through wars and natural disasters.
These people had to start again to give a new meaning to life. I was there to try to help them and give them back hope and a smile. As the time went by, I started realising that, through my lens, they were actually the ones who were giving hope, a smile and glimpses of intimacy.
I realised this only when I returned home and went through my pictures and notes. It was then that I started seeing these magical moments of intimacy: delicate and fragile. These shots revealed so much said yet unspoken.
The photos I selected for this project are shots of everyday life, ranging in time between continents and in the most complex settings. Of people I met on my way, with whom I have shared and I continue to share important moments. Every shot tells a story, a life lesson, moments of sharing traditions, moments of pain, hopes and dreams for the future.
È un progetto che nasce con il tentativo di catturare scorci di sana e bella complicità nella vita di ogni giorno.
Cos’é la complicità?
Per me è quel filo sottile di una grande matassa che tiene insieme l’umanità. Ogni qualvolta interagiamo con una persona, tessiamo una tela di complicità che può assumere svariate forme. Nella sua forma più positiva e sana, la si può trovare rappresentata in un abbraccio tra madre e figlio, tra padre e figlia e nella chiacchierata di un anziano con un giovane. Essa si esprime anche tra amici, in una carezza, in uno sguardo, in un sorriso, in una lacrima e in un silenzio. Dura poco, solo brevi e fugaci istanti ma ha un effetto prolungato.
Proprio perché sono istanti sono difficili da cogliere e catturare. Avvengono ogni giorno sotto il nostro sguardo ma non sempre ce ne rendiamo conto. La trama della complicità s’intreccia in modo inosservato. In silenzio. Lontana da sguardi indiscreti ma non sfugge al mio di sguardo. Con la camera, mi piace fermarmi a osservare la gente che mi passa accanto, con cui condivido uno spazio comune e che, come me, viene da e aspetta di andare chissà dove. C’è chi sogna e chi fa piani, c’è chi vive il presente e chi nel futuro. Gente come me, spesso più sfortunata di me che ha vissuto guerre e catastrofi naturali, che si è dovuta risollevare e ricominciare ed io ero li a condividere quei momenti, per ridare insieme un senso alla vita, regalare loro un sorriso e una speranza. Con il passare delle occasioni, più li osservavo e più non mi rendevo conto che erano loro, circondati dal mondo rasato a zero, a donarmi, guardando attraverso il mio obiettivo, spunti e istantanee di complicità. Non me lo dicevano, me ne sono reso conto in seguito, quando rientrato a casa rileggevo i miei appunti e guardavo le foto. Era ed è sempre in quel momento che intravedevo qualcosa di magico ed è come se quegli istanti e quegli scatti mi raccontassero qualcosa di inconfessato, svelandomi scorci di intimità.
Le foto che ho scelto per questo progetto sono scatti di vita quotidiana che spaziano nel tempo, tra continenti e nei contesti più complessi. Rappresentano persone che ho incontrato sul mio cammino, con le quali ho condiviso e continuo a condividere momenti importanti. Ogni scatto racconta una storia, una lezione di vita, la condivisione di tradizioni, di momenti di dolore, di speranze per il futuro e di sogni.
Father and child: making sense of the world. For me this photo is about the oral tradition particular in West Africa. There is clearly a lesson being taught here. Possibly a religious/ moral message- given the covered heads and the prayer beads. Perhaps the father doesn’t read or write and his only tool for passing down his wisdom to his son is through the oral tradition, the art of storytelling or lesson teaching. This is what comes to mind for me.
Padre e figlio: dare un senso al mondo. Per me questa foto ricorda la tradizione verbale diffusa soprattutto nell’Africa Occidentale. C’e chiaramente una lezione che sta per essere impartita, possibilmente religiosa o morale dato che entrambi hanno il capo coperto. Forse il padre non sa leggere e scrivere e il solo mezzo per trasmettere al figlio il proprio sapere è tramite l’arte del racconto e della lezione. Questo è quello che l’immagine evoca per me.
– Tanya Walmsley, England –
Looking at the photo, it tells a big story. With the mats set outside, it seems the old man is a person whose wise counsel is sought from time to time and is probably advising the young boy.
Questa foto racconta una grande storia. Con i tappeti stesi all’aperto, sembra che l’anziano sia una persona il cui saggio consiglio sia richiesto di tanto in tanto, e qui pare stia dando consigli al giovane ragazzo.
– Sammy Kiluka –
Rivers have always played an important role on human lives. They dictate the life of the people who live on their banks by giving but also by taking away. In Jakarta, every year during the raining season, the flooding Ciliwung river threatens the marginalized communities who live along its shore. In this picture the little girl and her grandfather were forced to leave their house that was flooded for a few weeks.
I fiumi hanno sempre giocato un ruolo importante nella vita delle persone. Decidono il modo di vita delle popolazioni che vivono lungo le loro sponde, danno ma allo stesso tempo tolgono. In Jakarta, ogni anno durante la stagione delle piogge, il fiume Ciliwung in piena diventa pericoloso per le molte famiglie che vivono sulle sue sponde. In questo foto, nonno e nipotina hanno dovuto lasciare per settimane la loro casa inondata dalla piena del fiume.
– Giorgio Faedo, Italy –
Sometimes a simple touch says more than a thousand words, transporting its recipients into a world that exists only for them. Swept away within the haunting beauty of the island, my friends magically expressed and disappeared into this place that time forgot.
Spesso un semplice gesto vale più di mille parole trasportando i destinatari in un mondo che esiste solo per loro. Presi all’interno della travolgente bellezza dell’isola, i miei amici magicamente si esprimono e spariscono in un posto quasi dimenticato dal tempo.
– Wesley & Adriana Galt –