A Walk - PhMuseum

A Walk

Rahima Gambo

2018 - Ongoing

I started walking because I wanted to reconnect to my city, a place my family had lived for several decades. Though I frequently oscillated away to other cities and continents for work or school, Abuja, Nigeria was the place I called home.

By walking slowly, meditatively, and breathing in copious amounts of fresh, fragrant air my intent was to sprout roots, to ground, reconnect and earth myself to an environment I felt somehow orphaned from after long stints away. I wanted my body to graft to the land.

I walk in Millennium park, a large green space popular with residents from all backgrounds because of its centrality and because of its reputation as one of the few, free, well maintained spaces not gobbled up by private or commercial interests.

Overtime as I walked off the park’s main pathways, towards wilder areas on the edges, I began to perceive the park as a sort of conscious benevolent entity that was aware of my presence as I was aware of its aliveness. We would have silent conversations that had less to do with words and more to do with mood and resonance.

I responded to its promptings by picking up the organic and inorganic material it would present to me. A fiery red petal would draw my eye, I would pick up a shiny black seed just to feel its texture. I knew nothing of botany and I barely knew the names of the flowers, seeds and trees around me. As the seasons changed from dry to wet, my senses were engaged in the shifting and we went through processes together.

Soon enough, torn up photos of visitors barely visible left in the grass among branches and fallen leaves began to reveal themselves. The glossy paper provided a bit of protection from the rain, but after a night left to the elements, the images were crumpled, soiled and stained. Slowly I started to collect these fragmented, beautifully damaged and mysterious images gifted to me by the park.

And so, we began to cross pollinate, to co-produce these hybrid children, photo-collage-illustrations that referred to botanical drawings describing the nature, process and descriptions of plant life.

In a way, through my collage-illustrations, I was attempting to circumvent some of the violence of unearthing a visual narrative about this particular place into being. The illustrations attempt to peer beyond the surface to the essence and see the connections and relationships between the fragmented pieces and the nature around it.

Who were the people in the images and why would they tear up their images so consistently? Some photos were obviously bad prints, discarded when inks would fail to saturate the photographic paper accurately. Just like looking over a surface of a plant, it was impossible to know the impulses and inner workings of the people in the pictures. And maybe it didn’t matter so much as they began new lives in the grass.

I also wondered what happened to the photographs left in the soil, the ones I failed to recover. Did the other plants recognise them as the same? Or did they sense the strangeness of the photographs as they refused to obey the laws of nature to sprout and grow?

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