2020 - Ongoing
Lockdown, curfew, and confinement are terms now becoming part of our vernacular, how does it feel like to be living under similar circumstances forever?
Southwest of Algiers, amidst a mountainous region, lays the village called Kahwet El Rih, its name translates as 'the wind cafe’. Constructed during the socialist era in the 70s, near the locality of Tarik Ibn Zied. It is said that an unusual number of the local inhabitants suffer from severe eyesight problems, causing varying levels of blindness for many people.
Some try to explain this phenomenon with the theory that the condition of blindness is a genetically transmissible disease, while others make more mystic explanations. The village on the hill is surrounded by barbary fig plantations (also known as prickly pear). It is believed that this issue of blindness is caused by the tiny thorns of the barbary fig flying in the air, especially during the harvest season, while some say this is just an urban myth. During the colonial era, the French army used to kill civilians and throw them on this species of cactus.
I was astounded when I first heard about the existence of this place. Reacting to it as a photographer was the first reaction that came to my mind, but I quickly realized that it is a very delicate topic. I believe that taking part in The Joop Swart Masterclass helped me to tackle this much important topic to my eyes.
surprisingly, there were no COVID-19 fatalities among the villagers, but the impact of this pandemic has been obviously felt on other levels. The blind people of the village sit most of the time on the roadside waiting for the help of passersby, and sanitary measures diminished the mobility all over the country drastically, making the situation of the blind persons and their relatives extremely challenging. It is true that the neediest receive a modest state allowance monthly which is around 80$ but that is not sufficient to assure a decent life.
Since I started this project, I have been interrogating myself about how popular culture depicts the existence of people with distorted vision, and inevitably I found myself asking similar questions, do they dream while sleeping? Do they have a sixth sense? Do their other senses become sharper? On the other hand, there is some evidence that suggests the use of a process called ‘echolocation’ by blind people. The Wind that Shakes Dreams is an attempt to explore the lives and the surroundings of the people residing in this village and will aim to understand what their environment means to them.