The photographic series of photographer Joana Choumali Ça va aller translates as “It will be fine”, a common phrase used by people in Côte d’Ivoire to calm down casually, even after a profoundly traumatic event. Choumali began the project less than a month after the Grand-Bassam terrorist attack in March 2016, when three armed men opened fire at a spa one hour from their home in Abidjan. The images in the series are taken on your iPhone, and seem more snapshots instead of portraits. I wanted the subjects to look natural, as if I were scanning the city.
“Three weeks after the attacks, the atmosphere of the small city changed,” Choumali said in a statement on the series. “Sadness is everywhere, a ‘saudade’, a kind of melancholy, most of the images show people alone, walking in the street or just standing, sitting alone, lost in their thoughts, and empty places.”
Choumali explains that he began to embroider images on printed canvases as a way to deal with his own sadness. The meditation process has now taken root in their daily practice as a way for the photographer to relax and concentrate. The brightly colored threads serve as feelings that she can not express verbally, and a way to witness and acknowledge the denied trauma of the people of Grand-Bassam.
“This work is a way to address the way in which the people of Côte d’Ivoire deal with psychological suffering,” Choumali said. “In Ivory Coast, people do not discuss their psychological problems or feelings.” A post-traumatic shock is considered mental weakness or illness People do not talk about their feelings, and each conversation is quickly shortened by a resigned “Ça va aller” .
Some pieces of Ça va aller will be exhibited later this spring at the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair in New York City. You can see more works of the Ivory Coast photographer on his website and Instagram.