Project Detail: Kekulé's Dream


2020 Nera di Verzasca Prize - Verzasca Foto Awards


Verzasca Foto


André Andersen


Project Info

Kekulé's Dream

Truth and reality does not usually come from a single source, it’s the process of recognizing patterns. The dream world plays an essential role in the work of the Sangomas. In their practice, the dream is a concrete remedy; it is considered as a communication channel from the ancestors.

Kekulé's Dream is the result of a series of trips to the Free State province of South Africa. On the travels I have photographed a group of shamanic healers called sangomas and their sacred surroundings. The sangomas have a practice that concentrates on physical as well as mental health, and which in a particular way seems to unite the areas of body, dream, knowledge and imagination. Their work is characterized by a certain holism. Rather than wanting to divide and delineate, there is a vision of seeing things in a broader context.

The dream world plays an essential role in the work of the sangomas. In their practice, the dream is a concrete remedy; it is considered a communication channel from the ancestors. It is up to the dreamer to interpret and pray for clearance of what the specific message is in a dream, and the messages can relate to everything from information about how a ritual should be performed to understandings of personal relationships. While working on Kelulé's dream It seemed clear that the medium of photography was an obvious form of expression to use: In many ways a series of photographs has the same structure as dreams - short flashes from a sequence or an event we no longer entirely remember.

I was often looking for things that could act as mirror of their belief system. The photographs in the series often depicts artefacts and engravings that symbolize a holistic approach, and it was important to me when I photographed people that it was during rituals or ceremonies rather than trying to portray the individual.

Finally, Kekulé's Dream also exemplifies an alternative to the health culture we cultivate in the Western world. Our healthcare system is one that, as we know, is based on medical treatment and which may have a tendency to ignore the aspects of health that relate to the psyche and the spirit - aspects that may not be publicly recognized because we have not examined them with the same seriousness. With my visits to Free State, I have come to realize that our perception of what is objectively true can be challenged by what is not immediately comprehended.