Nyani Quarmyne - Ghana

Musée National du Mali

Mbera (2013)

Mbera is a refugee camp in southern Mauritania, located approximately 50 km from the Malian border. Situated in the dry and dusty landscape of Western Sahara, Mbera is typically depicted by filmmakers as harsh and uninhabitable. However, Nyani Quarmyne’s visual essay offers a counter-narrative, showing quotidian desert experiences in vibrant and enigmatic ways. The photographer takes on life in the desert by visualizing regional diasporic displacement and the proverbial clash of cultures.

Quarmyne’s Mbera sketches out everyday moments. There are images of babies being born, and babies being fed. There are images of children play- ing football in the desert sand. Images of tea being shared and mothers making homes. Quarmyne, at times poetic, indirectly references the presence of the desert by depicting sand blown onto the body of an elderly man who appears to be reclining with his folded hands wrapped across his chest.

In the aftermath of the 2013 security crisis in Northern Mali, roughly 70,000 people lived in Mbera. Quarmyne’s essay shows their attempts to adjust to life in the desert. For some this meant becoming sedentary ; for others, living like nomads. Yet when we see one man skinning a goat from the top down, we wonder about the cultural differences between Mauritania and Mali. The picture draws our attention to the role of place in shaping identity and tradition. Subtle tensions between urban, nomadic, fishing, and farming life are highlighted by time and place. Quarmyne’s series therefore reveals how the traditions of Malian refugees are presently challenged by Mbera’s social and cultural realities. Seen through Quarmyne’s lens, Mbera is enchanting and magical, all the while remaining a life-altering experience for the displaced Malians who find themselves there.

Born in 1973 in New Delhi, India –
Lives in Düsseldorf, Germany

Institut Français
Ministère de la Culture de l’Artisanat et du Tourisme du Mali