Though mature understanding of the world comes with age, the insatiable curiosity of childhood is relatively well suited to the discovery of Africa. If in addition there are links of a sentimental kind such as a great grandfather who is a baker in Duala and a father who is a ophthalmologist in Bamako, one can imagine that a little girl would be very happy to share the early years of her life between Perpignan, Senegal, and Mali.

As a young adult, Lucille Reyboz studied Art History in Toulouse, with a particular preference for African culture. She exhibited her photographs of Casamance at the Espace Saint-Cyprien with the Martine Michard workshop and decided she was going to be a photographer. A course at the EFET in Paris helped her to hone her skills.
She became an assistant to Louis Jammes, a former pupil of the school, before working with Pierre Terrasson, a photographer who specialised in music.


When she embarked on her solo career in 1997, Lucille was only twenty-four. Ahead of her lay the vast and bright fields into which she would delve: that of the arts, and more specifically that of music, and more deeply that of Africa. One day in Lomé, she came across an article in the magazine Balafon about the Tamberma of Northern Togo.

This animist people, who was spared the civilising designs of German and French colonists, remains of very great interest to ethnologists. To the young photographer, they were above all a welcoming and lively community, with whom she was to spend the greater part of the year 2000. The area itself is unusual. The bush of Tamberma country is like that of so many other places, but rising from it are ochre clay constructions that do not really look like huts. They look like a bunch of scattered fortresses lying at the edge of the desert. There is great complicity between the Tamberma architects, the heavens and the spirits.
Their "tatas" are much more than refuges or shelters, designed in such a way that they echo an ancient cosmogony. The architects tirelessly reconstruct the universe. With a skeleton of wood and flesh of clay, the tata combines North and South with masculine and feminine, opening via a mouth, keeping watch through a pair of eyes, its ground floor shared between the animals' shelter, the gods' sanctuary and the ancestors' fetishes.

The living gather together as families on the upper floor, on the circular terrace, under the thatch of the loft. What photographic essay could succeed in grasping and recreating this strange relationship between group and building, between humans and these clay wombs? The narrative had to come from within, provided it was given time to establish itself, like a childhood memory or an old legend. When she arrived in the village of Koufitougou, Lucille was recognised by the chief as being the reincarnation of his mother and a tata was built for her in a place of her choice. It was more than enough to enable her to produce pictures, taken during different celebrations and with respect for signs, in which the spirits are themselves present and only slightly less visible than the scars that embellish the adolescents and consecrate the clay of the houses.

Hervé Le Goff

Lucille Reyboz

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