My grandfather worked in the construction of the Akosombo dam, in Ghana, and lived with his wife and their only child, my father, in a settlement with other workers’ families from Italy and Europe. My grandmother worked as a teacher for Italian kids, while my father was sent to an international elementary school. They lived in Akosombo from 1962 to 1966. My grandmother told me that the years spent in Akosombo were a total waste of time for her. She was not interested in getting to know the culture of the country she was living in, she was just very nostalgic of her own family in Italy. She was there only because it was her duty as a wife to go and stay with her husband.

A few years ago I found a box containing the diapositive films that my grandfather took with his Rolleiflex of the dam under construction. There are also a few images of my grandmother and their son. I have always been kind of proud that my family had lived in such a far away and exotic place. Our home has always been filled with objects brought from Ghana. Yet, a quick research was enough to find out that the Akosombo dam, built to bring prosperity to a newly independent country, signified a socio-environmental disaster for thousands of people who were forced to leave the territories they inhabited for centuries, that had to be flooded to create the largest artificial lake on Earth, lake Volta.

The pride I once felt turned into shame and made me understand at once many concepts that had been quite abstract for me like post-colonialism, exploitation of the African continent, dispersion of traditional ways of living and indigenous cultural practices.

My father and grandfather have both died, so I can’t ask them about their experience and what do they think of the harm caused by the dam. A huge part of the memories belonging to that experience are missing and cannot be replaced.

The project aims to integrate this family archive with a new imagery made of photographic and audiovisual material, starting a reflection based on memory and the relationship with a specific territory while then focussing on the changing of perspectives that happens through generations.

The project is still ongoing, I have just completed the scanning of the images and I am currently researching about the socio-environmental impact of the dam.

A further step will be to travel to Akosombo and start a research on site, both photographic and audiovisual, in order to participate with my own contribution to the family archive. I would like to establish a personal connection to the place where my family lived also as a way to listen to the inhabitants’ stories about how the dam had an impact on their families.

The project will result in a multimedia body of work consisting in archive materials, analogue photography, video and digital practices applied to photography. The photographic part will be carried out with a Rolleiflex, the same that my grandfather used back then.

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