NIMJAT

Photographic reportage from sub-saharan Africa in collaboration with Fulvio Lo Giudice

Does slavery by birth – calculated according to the black density on the skin – still exist?
My name is Alessandro Mancuso, I’m a photographer and I started my career more than 30 years ago. I specialized in Photography of Cultural Heritage. Since 2004 I work in a cultural service company, Magika.
In 2017 a London company asked me to document by several photos the various phases of the RPU1 installation in Mauritania: it’s right in this occasion that this “social” report was born.
It was July, and I was catapulted into Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, after three flights (Catania, Rome, Casablanca).The day after, suddenly, I travelled for five hours in a jeep and then I reached my destination, the village of Nimjat. It looks like a refugee camp, because its tents in the dunes. It’s the result of a process: the settlement developed round the burial site of marabout Cheikh Saad Bouh (1848-1917), who rests here with his relatives, in a very simple white mausoleum.
While I was capturing the phases of RPU1 installation, a sand desert arrived and I had to slow down my shooting (photographic campaign): that’s the reason why I have re-discovered the profession of “the pure photojournalist”. It’s a really rare profession, because nowadays the newspapers prefer the breaking news and the speed, whereas “the slowness teach you to see and to listen to” (Odette du Puigaudeau).
Nimjat is a religious place, but just for the “White Moorish” and with a caste system rooted.
You can identify Arabs from afar, they have magnificent blue boubous that swell up like sails and float in the warm wind. On the one hand, they live in the few structures of poor masonry, on the other hand, the others, the haratines, live in enclosures near the unique sand road, where donkeys, covered by scars of the beatings, struggle continuously and drug small tanks filled with water, taken from a rare distant well(fig. 9). It’s not water potable and it’s good to boil. I could see the life into the tents, because a local spiritual leader accompanied me and I saw the women who seated in the shade. They looked like creatures that lived beneath the ground, their eyes were full of resigned calmness, of those who had no personalities, who didn’t choose, who didn’t know what is over Nimjat, over the desert, because here there were no fences, the nothing is the impassable wall.
When I came back in Italy, I read and studied that society, and I’ve tried to make out their peculiarities. Despite in 1981 Mauritania had removed the slavery (it’s the last Country of the World), there are many thousands of people, especially black haratines, enslaved still today. And it’s not uncommon to hear that “The True freedom is the Paradise freedom”, it shows the strong rooting of slavery in Mauritanian culture.