Adji Dieye Aphasia

Fotomuseum Winterthur
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© Adji Dieye

The practice of Italian Senegalese artist Adji Dieye (b. 1991), based in Zurich and Dakar, Senegal, is dedicated to the themes of postcolonialism and nation-building. From an Afro-diasporic perspective the artist examines how language and the urban landscape function in the writing of history, whose linearity becomes the focus of her critical enquiry. At the centre of Dieye’s exhibition is the video-based work Aphasia (2022), newly produced especially for Fotomuseum Winterthur during an artist residency of several months in Dakar. The work allows Afro-diasporic communities and Black identities to express themselves as living archives by giving them agency and a voice.The loss of language is the conceptual starting point of the cross-disciplinary work Aphasia, which uses the interplay of photography, video and performance to unveil the contradictions of national knowledge production. The term "aphasia" (deriving from the ancient Greek word αφασία for speechlessness) describes a cognitive language disorder in which individuals are often unable to remember or communicate words. In Dieye’s work, however, the term is appropriated and transferred into a cultural context through a speech-based performance in different public spaces in Dakar. We see the artist sitting on a rooftop, a stack of pipes or a huge mound of building sand, with buildings and construction sites in the background mostly wrapped in fabric or covered in scaffolding. Absentmindedly, she leafs through a manuscript, mumbling sentences in broken French – excerpts of presidential speeches, written in French, that have been delivered to the public since Senegal’s independence in 1960 and which Dieye has arduously researched in the National Archives of Senegal.In citing these addresses, the artist finds herself confronted with a certain speechlessness: she attempts to express herself in the official language imposed by a former colonial power that only parts of the population can actually understand in its institutional form. A seemingly neutral language, French continues to operate as a language of business, politics and education in Senegal – even after the country’s decolonisation –, holding on to the space on the country’s history shelves that it gained by gradually replacing vernacular tongues throughout the last century.

Fotomuseum Winterthur
Winterthur Zurich
February 25, 2023
May 29, 2023
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