Fajara to death
2016-2017, Calais, France
Fajara to death
Between 2015 and 2016, 10.000 people have passed through the Jungle of Calais, the biggest shantytown in Western Europe. Coming from countries like Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea they’e fleeing war, persecution, and poverty, and at least 90% of them hope to reach the UK at any price. They want to join their families, enter communities that speak the same language, find favorable asylum conditions, find jobs, or even just work the black market in the British El Dorado.
In 2003 the French port town of Calais became the strategic point of departure for people trying to leave mainland Europe and enter the UK. Crossing the channel through the tunnel is something that people can do on their own, without having to rely on smugglers. Everybody has the same chance at making it through, so when the day ends and night falls, everyone, regardless age, origin, or gender, come together to reach their common goal – “Fajará” ! “Fajará“, in Arabic, means explosion or to blow it up! In the Jungle the word has taken on another meaning and is used by everyone, even none arabic speakers. In the Jungle it means “to arrive at safe port – to Dover”. Each night, inhabitants of the Jungle unite to make “dougar” – which means to build barricades that create traffic jams for the trucks going into the tunnel allowing some of them to jump onto the trailers, and attempt the crossing.
This happens on a regular basis and turning the Calais motorway into a theatre of confrontation with the police and with truck drivers. Mohammed, Ali, Khan, and many others like them constantly face danger and play chicken with death, and there are times when they loose. There are 28 migrants buried in the Calais graveyard, 16 of them died in 2016 alone. Unlike the other graves, theirs are marked by numbers written on a piece of wood and stuck into the ground, without further ado. The same way they died, without further ado.
“Fajará to Death” captures the moments of risk at night, as people try to cross over. Hiding, waiting, attempting to pass, some successful, some not. The images included in “Fajará to Death” were made thanks to the complicity of the migrants with Severine Sajous the photographer, who lived with them in the Jungle for six months, developing a participatory photography project called Jungleye. The images were taken with an infrared camera used for hunting. The aesthetic provided by the camera is reminiscent of surveillance images but this time the camera is accomplice, not watchman. The camera sides with the ones making “dougar”, with the ones doing “fajara”, and it keeps an eye on “abbas”, the name for police in the jargon of the Jungle.
“Fajará to Death” looks at our dark present. The distorted images that Europe projects, offer hope and dreams to many who have had to leave their homes in order to make their life liveable. Caught in the outer seams of Europe, these people are surviving in inhuman conditions, where just being is difficult and where the dead lose their names. The old language doesn’t mean anything anymore and in the Jungle new words are invented to describe their collective condition. “Fajará to Death” is partly an impulse to give back names and show them to the world.