Patrick Willocq | I’m a Walé Respect me
edited by Azu Nwagbogu
in collaboration with Baudoin Lebon Galerie, Paris
For this project I dove deeply into an initiation ritual of the Ekonda pygmies in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Ekondas believe that the most important moment in the life of a woman is the birth of her first child. The young mother (who usually are aged between fifteen and eighteen years), called Walé (primiparous nursing mother), must return to her parents where she remains secluded for a period ranging from two to five years. The end of her seclusion is marked by a dancing and singing ritual. The rite of the woman Walé has resisted the pressure and the changes of modern life – but for how long? To document this beautiful tribute to motherhood, fertility and femininity, I proposed some Walé to participate in staged photographs. Each set-up worked as a visual representation of one of the subjects that the Walé would sing about on the day of her release from seclusion.
(from a text by Patrick Willocq)