Calebasses

Residency: sonic explorers

Dakar(SE)

2020

http://sonicexplorers.net/dakar/nika-schmitt-project/




The soundscapes of Dakar are vibrant, multi-layered and unpredictable. During the residency sonic explorers at Dakar (SE), silence, or an environment of little noise, was unimaginable or to put it mildly: a seemingly unattainable state. My idea and concept of quietude were in need of reinterpretation. Subsequently, it became apparent that my contribution in research and work would not consist of adding more sounds to the found circumstances. Instead, I anticipated integrating objects that function as a type of sound reflection tool, or movement systems that enhance the inaudible aspects of the existing soundscapes. With that in mind, I started to collect different types of containers, to experiment with their sound-reflection abilities in- and outdoors.

First, I chose the multipurpose fruit of Senegal: the calabash. The calabash (in French, “calebasse”), cut in halves, serves as a bowl for water transportation and food preparation, but it is also used as a musical instrument and plays a role during spiritual ceremonies. Its irregular external form became an interesting element for sound and autonomous movement experimentation. Through its spherical shape it provides a great isolating surface to reflect induced sounds or multidirectional sound fields.

By analysing the traffic and shifting sound dynamics of markets and other public spaces, I decided to create a performative moving unit, built of two calabash-halves. This moving object was then placed in the midst of the encountered traffic situation of Dakar. The calabashes are joined back to back by a battery-powered motor and move autonomously from one side to the other to find their way on the pavement and soils. Occasionally, pedestrians stopped and watched, while others ignored and passed by. It became a spontaneous intervention that showed a somewhat familiar object exhibiting an unknown and unpredictable movement. The sounds of the environment are merged with the buzzing noise of the motor and the crunching sound of sand and stones under the rolling “calebasses”. This intervention allowed me to record and film the different traffic dynamics of the city. The calabash performance was shown in the form of a video at the open studios.