Riccardo Giacconi

The Talking Tree
video, 3’
commissioned by Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

Abdullay Kadal Traore is a musician from Burkina Faso who comes from a griot family (a griot is a repository of oral tradition from West Africa). The soundtrack of the video is a recording of Abdullay speaking in Sambla, the language of his ethnic group. He explains how, in his people’s tradition, certain areas of language are only accessible during certain established social occasions; only a griot has the power to access such areas, and the possibility to tell certain stories or sing certain songs increases with age. The words pronounced in such events are strictly not translatable: only Sambla people can access them through their language.

Subtitles, although they seem to be a faithful translation to what Abdullay is saying, are completely disconnected from the voice. They tell a traditional Sambla story for children about a talking tree, which kills everyone who pronounces certain forbidden words.

Exhibited at: Whitechapel Gallery, London (2013); Prague Biennale 5 (2011); Rotonda di Via Besana, Milano (2010).