For this special screening event, we are joined by the film’s co-director, Christian Kobald, who will be in discussion with artist Matti Braun.
Considering the power of images in a culture where worshipping them is a wholly foreign idea, Mayrhofer and Kobald investigate the past and present of the only surviving photograph of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, founder of the Sufi order, one of Senegal’s most influential Islamic groups, which was taken by French colonial police in 1913.
Christian Kobald works as an artist, journalist of spike art quarterly magazine, and is running together with Severin Dünser the gallery space COCO in Vienna. He studied philosophy at the University of Vienna, and Art, Culture and History of Ideas at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna. He also is a jury member for Art in Public Space Lower Austria.
There’s no escaping Ahmadou Bamba’s image in Senegal: It can be found hanging from the rearview mirrors of taxis, in bakeries, at markets, in kitchens and bedrooms, and it’s also painted on the walls of half the country’s buildings. Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, also known as Serigne Touba, founded the Sufi order of the Mourides, one of Senegal’s most influential Islamic groups. And his portrait can be seen everywhere.
In “Shadows of the Prophet” Philipp Mayrhofer and Christian Kobald investigate the past and present of this picture. It’s from the only surviving photograph of Ahmadou Bamba, which was taken by French colonial police in February, 1913. The filmmakers speak with photographers who reproduce it in mass quantities, they visit the courtroom where Ahmadou Bamba was sentenced to exile in Gabon, and they also witness the annual procession in Senegal’s second-largest city, Touba, founded by Ahmadou Bamba and the location of his grave. Shadows of the Prophet is about the power of images in a culture where worshipping them is a wholly foreign idea.
Mayrhofer and Kobald studiously avoid looking at Senegal with the common Western attitude of paternalistic, condescending sympathy. Instead, they bathe in the country’s beauty and attempt to follow the conventions valid there concerning staging and self-presentation: frontal, two-dimensional, almost like a tableau. Underlaid with the hypnotic music of Koudlam, the film’s pulled along more and more strongly by the gentle, almost clandestine subversion with which a police ID photo has been turned into a political and religious icon over the past decades. By the film’s conclusion Ahmadou Bamba’s followers themselves could reinterpret “Shadows of the Prophet” as a vehicle for spreading the message of their spiritual leader. (Dominikus Müller)
Dir. Philipp Mayrhofer and Christian Kobald Austria 2010 52mins Subtitled
Matti Braun exhibition events
A programme of talks, tours, events and screenings to accompany Matti Braun’s exhibition in the galleries.