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3 July 2014

Patrick Willocq, I Am Walé Respect Me

I deep dive here into an initiation ritual and aim to create an artistic and documentary photography, very close to the daily experience of Ekonda pygmies in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

For the Ekondas, the most important moment in the life of a woman is the birth of her first child. The young mother (usually 15 to 18), called Walé (‘primiparous nursing mother’), then returns to her parents where she remains secluded for a period of 2 to 5 years. During her seclusion, a Walé is under very special care. Her mother introduces her to her new social role. By strictly respecting the sex taboo during this whole period, she is given a similar status to that of a patriarch. The end of her seclusion is marked by a dancing and singing ritual. The choreography and the songs have a very codified structure but are unique creations specific to each Walé.

I’ve always been fascinated by native tribes because I feel they have in them a wealth that we ourselves have lost. The Walé ritual is a beautiful tribute to motherhood, fertility and femininity, which is why I proposed to five Walés, whom I know for over a year, to participate in staged set ups to witness a part of their personal history, each image being a visual representation of an intimate thought she will sing the day of her release from seclusion.

Patrick Willocq

Artist presented by Azu Nwagbogu for the Discovery Award of the Rencontres d’Arles. 

Exhibition venue : Atelier de Chaudronnerie, Parc des Ateliers, Rencontres d’Arles 2014.