For her solo exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo, Laura Henno presents a collection of films and photographs that she has produced in the Comoros archipelago since 2013 – in particular, between Mayotte and Anjouan. Her new video installation concludes a body of work that investigates a territory of stark contrasts, riven by migration policies and an omnipresent colonial heritage.
Laura Henno explores the lives of marginalized people and the spaces of resistance that are organized in reaction to situations of domination and exclusion. The communities that she has closely followed over the course of a number of years have all invented alternative ways of living-in-the-world1, often finding refuge in natural environments. Marronage, the fugitive practice of resistance of enslaved and oppressed peoples, has run throughout the societies of the Indian Ocean region, where the
Comoros archipelago is located, over centuries of movement and migration. Since her first trips to the Comoros, Laura Henno has been studying the complexity underlying the identities of those who inhabit these island territories. Over the course of her
encounters, she has created close bonds with Patron, a child of the water, whose apprenticeship as a people snuggler on board of kwassa-kwassa, the makeshift boats that link Anjouan to Mayotte, is the subject of the film KOROPA (2016). By following Patron’s trajectory as he makes his way to the French island of Mayotte, Laura Henno immersed herself in the invisible forces that underpin Comorian beliefs. This led to the film DJO (2018), which centres on Smogi, a
figure who has a unique relationship not only to his dogs but also with the power of the elements, nature, and with the spirits that inhabit it.
Laura Henno’s new film, Ge Ouryao ! Pourquoi t’as peur ! links the lives of Patron and Smogi to the Boucheman, a gang of undocumented teenagers who live as one with their pack of dogs. On a beach on the outskirts of the city, every day these young people must reinvent the conditions of their survival, caught in the interstices of waiting and wandering. In his text on Laura Henno’s work, L’Instance du devenir, written on the occasion of this exhibition, author Patrick Chamoiseau observes the way in which “the counterforces of life are there indeed, in these adolescent beings, who find themselves crushed in that friction between worlds and nonworlds. These young people, whom the artist approaches, they are constantly on the move. Nothing actually anchors them into any territory. They have no place of their own. They walk inside the earth’s faults, inside the cracks, the hidden passages; they follow ridges and edges; they inhabit some mangroves of genesis, foam and sand, and there they find themselves wandering as though taking the first errant steps of humanity”2.
(1) Patrick Chamoiseau, ‘L’instance du devenir’, 2021, magazine PALAIS, n° 33, 2022. Published in the framework of the season “Reclaim the Earth”
Curator Adélaïde Blanc