The fragrance of the dream

Publish date 30-05-2023

by Luca Periotto

Sometimes it happens that a photographer's archive can be transformed from individual memory to collective memory. That section of memory where empathy is never affected by the mold of indifference and where sentiment can never be an issue of mere obsolescence.

This is the case with this photograph that I took one morning in Angola, in Benguela, a city of 10,000 inhabitants 450 km south of Luanda, the capital of the African state lying along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
I arrived there a couple of years after the end of the civil war for independence, and the most striking thing was the lack of infrastructure, corruption and violence still widespread.
I made friends with a group of young music-loving students who took me around to document the place.
On the beach, not far from the fish market, we climbed the stairs of a dilapidated reinforced concrete structure, where several jute bags were spread out on the pavement and the fresh fish was displayed to be dried.

In the midst of that "disgusting" stench, two children struck me who, instead of playing like many others, were intent on arguing among themselves in a long, intimate conversation. In the background, people, perhaps sailors scanning the horizon.
Without asking myself too many questions, I took the only shot: I had run out of rolls.
After I demanded to know their name, I gave each a ballpoint pen, some chewing gum and so I learned that the boy's name was Akili, which in the Swahili language means "bright and intelligent".
Medard, the little girl, on the other hand, in the local language means "good and courageous".
It was impossible to hear what those two were saying to each other. However, I like to imagine that their beautiful dreams were common and far from that place: a pair of new shoes, clean clothes, a good branded perfume, following a route towards a serene, prosperous future. A mirage that takes shape on the other side of the sea, even in the form of smells – perhaps even disgusting ones – but, for those who feel without a future, doomed, they always seem to be the best and attract, because basically it is the " fragrance of the dream”.

© 2023 Luca Periotto
NP March 2023

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