Babysitting A Shark In A Coldroom


“This body of work which includes video installation and photography, was developed in the Comoros Island while exploring the idea of encounters in unfamiliar geographies. I travelled to all four islands of the Comoros archipelago (Ngazidja, Nzuani, Mwali and Maore) in two separate visits to experience the island region which I first heard about through the Aljazeera documentary “Island of Death” which captures the migration crisis occasioned by the French annexation of the Mayotte. Surprisingly the archipelago, which is hardly ever visible even on geographic maps became the center of attention in 1996 until it went back into relative obscurity. On November 23rd that fateful day the Ethiopian airline flight 961 which was hijacked twenty soon after it took off, crash-landed in its waters.

It made headlines because it was the most fatal airplane hijacking incident prior to the 9/11 attacks. To make the fatal event even worse for the obscured island, the need to preserve 124 bodies from 15 different countries meant that the only coldroom on the island had to be converted into a temporal morgue. This resulted in the collapse of the SOCOVIA cold-room after it housed the corpses. It also affected the major source of economic activities for the youth on the island.

I staged this performative photographic series in that now-defunct coldroom for the series titled Babysitting A Shark In A Coldroom, inspired by the hijacking and an comic illustration by Baba Yussif, a Comorian activist, whose work critique the continued French occupation of Mayotte. Additionally, I filmed the ocean from where the crash occurred and superimposed transcripts of conversations between the hijackers and the pilot onto the video. Together with a downloaded news reportage of the crash captured by a tourist on the beach, I installed both videos on four decommissioned economy class airplane seats.

The project produces its own fictions based on these encounters with such events, places, people, language, narratives, and so on. At the same time it escapes the dependency on such encounters for its meaning by allowing the play of multiple image forms to become the fulcrum of engagement.”