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Jeremie by Richard Hanson

April 29 2008

No Entry by Fadia Faqir

August, 2008

Richard Hanson

I met Jeremie through J, a friend who works with destitute asylum seekers, refugees and ‘alternative’ communities. He’s been involved in setting up squats and a night shelter for asylum seekers, and helped Jeremie find his home in this caravan on the outskirts of Sheffield City Centre, in the middle of a hidden community of other people who live outside mainstream society.

To reach his home, you have to walk down a road with a chain across it, marked ‘no entry’, and through a collection of fairly wild-looking dogs.

The caravan is low-tech – Jeremie has a tiny portable b&w tv, a woodburning stove, and a few clothes.  But he’s known and respected in the community he’s living in.  He’s fixing up a couple of bikes, and is an electrician by trade.


Jeremie © Richard Hanson. Click to enlarge.  

Jeremie is from Kinshasa in the DRC.  He fled to the UK after being thrown in to jail, because of his involvement with the daughter of a general in the Congolese army.  She became pregnant, and died during an attempted abortion.  The general sent his men to arrest Jeremie, who was taken to jail and beaten.

With help from a cousin, he managed to escape, and came to the UK for safety, three and a half years ago. He’s lived across the country, from Birmingham to Dover, but has been in this caravan for nearly a year.

The one item that Jeremie has managed to bring with him was the shirt he’s wearing here.  It was given to him by his wife, just before he left – she’d made the shirt for him.

This is Jeremie’s description of his last meeting with his wife.  He hasn’t heard from her or his two children since:

I [went] with him, [the next] morning I see my wife coming, I see her, just small time, she takes these clothes.  If I see these clothes I remember to my wife, I say why why… my wife she takes these clothes she give me, I put on the clothes – she put the clothes on me, I go with my cousin’s friend, I don’t know the arrangement – give him the money, I see her friend start the arrangements, take me with him inside the plane, pulled me with the hand, don’t tell, don’t talk, I have to go with you any place.  I say OK, I’m just here … I see just Heathrow. I took the train, the traffic, I had … one friend here, he speaks a little French, I speak to him, I go with the friend here, I go to the house.

Fadia FaqirThe ‘No Entry’ of the title refers to the ‘no entry’ sign beyond which you will find a community of immigrants. So I wrote a piece about what is beyond the visible and familiar; about communities not on the margins, but even beyond the margins. The basic refrain is taken from an Arab proverb that says: Those who are far from the eyes are far from the heart or don’t look to safeguard your heart. If the eyes don’t see the heart will be free of sadness.

Jeremie’s shirt is key for him and for the narrative. His wife made it so it symbolises love and familiarity, but it also led me to Joseph’s story in the Qur’an. Jeremie got involved with the daughter of a general in the Congolese army.  She became pregnant, and died during an attempted abortion.  The general sent his men to arrest Jeremie, who was taken to jail and beaten. So Jeremie was first betrayed by his own people. This betrayal was followed by many others, including the way he was let down by the British host society.

Derrida articulates the European subject tendency to constitute the other as marginal to ethnocentrism and locates that as the problem with all logo centric endeavours. Describing what he calls ‘white mythology’ Derrida wrote in the Margins of Philosophy, ‘[it] has erased within itself the fabulous scene that has produced it, the scene that nevertheless remains, active and stirring, inscribed in white ink, an invisible design covered over in the palimpsest.’ The task is to recover what ‘nevertheless remains, active and stirring, inscribed in white ink,’ which is to say, what is active, stirring yet imageless.

Richard Hanson captured the image of Jeremie making the invisible visible. And by giving him a voice I tried to decoded or capture what was written in white ink.

The whole piece is from Jeremie’s own perspective, albeit imagined. It is an attempt to give him a voice and move his narrative from the margins to the centre.