“This series of photographs is a chapter from my project on death and funeral titled “Death Flies” In this chapter named “Waxed in Black” I document different funerals in the Accra region and portray the deceased’s families’ struggle.
In Ghana, families spend large sums of money to bury the dead, often getting into debt to offer the deceased a large scale ceremony. This phenomenon mixed between traditional African animistic traditions and American bling bling is putting strain on struggling families who crumble below the pressure, fear of society and the dead’s haunting spirit.
As so much is at stake on the funeral ceremony’s day: Fear, loss, despair, anxiety for the future, the family’s hearts beat in the present tense. They pour all their emotions into this instant they have bought with money they do not have. The funeral procession moves with an impulsive energy rejecting the idea of death itself, trying to throw an opposing force against it.
In addition to my interest in the classical Ghanaian funeral rites. I soon wanted to document the fate of the poorer individuals whose families or lack of them could not afford the cost of these fastidious commemorations. Inequality in death became a subtopic of my work and lead me to enter this public morgue. A place where people who cannot afford to buy these large scales ceremonies end up. I wanted to demystify the idea that social classes disappear once life is gone.
In this place, bodies are stored and left to rot until they are burned in a mass grave once every 3 months.
I call myself a documentary photographer although I sometimes feel uneasy when categorized in this manner. Most photographers who have influenced my work are in a documentary tradition because their focus is on reality, human beings, their bodies, faces, the social or economical conditions they find themselves in. Whether subjectively interpreted or not, I feel that their raw material comes from a reality that leaves important traces. Documentary photography has a certain smell that I like my work to have.
On a more personal level I sometimes I think of photography as Winnicot’s transitional object: An element you create that fills a void or empties space. An object that has no function and means nothing but is affectively charged by human links. Though the transitional object is useless, it is important in channelling existential traumas and creating an abstraction out of a nerve noisy reality. For some photographers, it is about being there fully in reality and being compassionate.
It is also about feeling and capturing an essence. What are the ways that you have to relate to others? Perhaps that a human being was first made to survive and then to link. It is the range in which the crocodile state (our reptilian surviving roots) and the social animal must coexist. To me photography is a proof of desire towards human beings.”