The NomadicMILK art project has tracked the daily routes of two milk related economies in Nigeria, between January and December 2009. It followed the movements of Mr. Idiris, a cowherd, and his family during the dry season. It also followed the distribution of PEAK milk, one of the best-known brands of powdered and condensed milk in Nigeria. The routes were traced by GPS, and drawings of each route were made on the ground, using a custom-developed GPS drawing robot. This way the routes can be easily discussed with the people involved. Finally, mono prints were made of every route: a set of 12 sand-colored prints per route, and thus per person.
A new locative media project by Esther Polak and team
The project will realize colorful sand drawings on the ground, visualizing the variety of dairy transports that take place throughout Nigeria.
The sand drawings are be based on actual GPS (Global Positioning System) recordings that the NomadicMILK team collected in 2009, in close collaboration with dairy transporters in Nigeria, both Fulani cattle owners and personnel involved in the distribution of condensed milk and powdered milk. In addition to the sand drawings (which have been executed in different places all over the world) the project will result in a poetic film that will tell the story of the landscape, people, economy and mobility behind the sand drawings.
The Fulani are nomadic herdsmen who move with their cattle in annual migrations in search of water, fodder and markets. These migration patterns are carefully chosen, based on combined knowledge of age-old historic experience and actual day-to-day situations inside and outside their camps. Because their mobile lifestyle is so unlike that of non-nomadic outsiders, their reasoning seems inaccessible, and they are often misjudged as ‘primitive’.
PEAK milk transporters (truck drivers, van drivers, hand cart operators)
In the daily life of the Nigerian people, dairy products are available on almost every street corner, as condensed milk in cans or milk powder. The distribution of these dairy products (often bearing the PEAK label) across Nigeria is complex. After their arrival in big containers in the Lagos harbor, the process by which they manage to pop up at small retail points in remote areas of rural Nigeria is also almost incomprehensible to an outsider.
The economies of both the Fulani and the Peak dairy are based on mobility.
The project NomadicMILK aims to raise awareness of those mobility patterns and the use of space through an artistic visualization of the dairy routes, achieved by combining new media such as global positioning systems, mobile telephones and GPS. Fulani herdsman and Peak transporters will be equipped with GPS receivers built into mobile phones.
GPS drawing robot
To be able to discus the routes with both groups, a new visualization tool will be developed especially for this project: a GPS drawing robot. The robot will be able to read GPS data. The collected routes will be drawn by the GPS drawing robot as a scaled sand-track on the ground, in a very direct and recognizable way. The team can then discuss the tracks with the Fulani or the Peak transporters. Combining the routes we expect to collect will reveal the differences in spatial organization between the two dairy economies.
By mapping ever-changing Fulani migration routes and modern Peak transports, this project will create a contemporary form for depicting pastoral landscape. No matter how different their lifestyles might seem, the two groups can be considered colleagues in a shared workplace.
In this way, it becomes possible to communicate about something that is normally invisible: the routes covered by individuals and their daily routines in a spatial context. In addition to the aesthetic aspect of the project, the route visualizations will give both the Fulani herdsmen and Peak transporters a new perspective on their own perceptions of place, mobility and economics. Their comments and reactions to the sand-drawings of the routes that are so vital to them will be the central focus in the project.
The project will result in a poetic film explaining the world behind the abstract sand drawings. To realize the film (production, recording, editing and soundtrack) we will collaborate with and rely on the expertise of New Age Film Company in Kaduna, Nigeria. In the course of 2009 the project will finalize the installation and website showing Nigeria’s space, landscape and stories, and its active, flexible economy.
The installation is designed so that it can travel light. We plan to present the project at venues in Africa, Europe and the US to varied audiences, so that the public gets an unexpected insight into everyday, mobile life in Nigeria. The venues we choose will be in the context of both artistic and business communities. The project will also be presented via its website. On the website we will publish small clips from the project footage, and a growing journal of the project and its international feedback.
The opening of the exhibition Drawing with satellites and the presentation of NomadicMILK on May 14th 2011 at the GoDown arts center in Nairobi, Kenia, are represented on the GeoTales Blog.