Translations allowed

Mauritania - Surfing from a Sinking Ship

The burning blue tubes peel hypnotically between shipwrecks off the coast of the land that is never on the map. In this disputed territory of rust and sand, tradition and post-colonial scars, we dutifully surf extended sessions at the demands of a local Comandante’s filmmaking experiments.

Herman Melville said that no true place is ever on the map. I take this to mean that the soul of a place cannot be contained by the political boundary of a country.

Like many African countries that skirt the Atlantic, Mauritania is scarred by post-colonialism, and searching for an identity by trying to link tradition with progress. These giant forces—pulling opposites—give places a twist, a hump, a sense of discomfort.

Mauritania is like a docked ship awaiting repairs, one side gathering industrial rust and sinking into the deeply cold Atlantic, the other, sand-swamped. While cherishing its nomadic roots, such tradition is broken on the steaming wheel of the lucrative iron ore trade.

While respecting that the very land itself shifts with time as mountainous dunes are reshaped by ceaseless wind, people attempt to lay down political boundaries, these western-Sahara markers no longer moving with the wind, but with the decisions of bureaucrats who no longer live in the heart of the desert but in run-down cities at the rim.

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