The Folonko (crocodile) also known as Mama Folonko, is one of three sacred fresh water crocodile pools in The Gambia. It is located in the rural village of Kartong, where I spent two years on a self directed residency from 2012 - 2014, and subsequently visit every year.
The pool is surrounded by a sacred forest, which includes kobo figs and run palms; a habitat for many species of birds and biological diversity. The surface of the pool is covered by a layer of pakanui-water lettuce. The crocodiles are not always visible within the water, however they are there, still and silent. On a visit to the site I was fortunate to see two of the white Folonko, which locals consider to be extreemly sacred.
'Folonko' is a project which I have undertaken preliminary research and development for whilst visiting Kartong village in February 2018/19. It relates to an enquiry I am making into my relationship and experience with African tradition, ritual animism, and the healing qualities of sound. I am interested with the relationship between indigenous human culture and their engagement with natural ecosystems as a place where sprits, dreams and waking reality merge.
Mama Folonko is in spiritual union with the women elders of the six Kartong village tribes. As custodians they use the site to pray, chant and perform ritual blessings. This spirituality has grown from generations of pragmatic empiricism. It is a place of pilgrimage, where people visit the elders to receive blessings and prayers to help with fertility in exchange for traditional offering of white candles, salt and kola nuts.
Part of my research into 'Folonko' has involved taking part in the sacred ceremonies performed by the women elders, where I drank the sacred water and performed ablutions. Field recordings were collected of the ritual, the inside of the rain forest and within the Folonko Pool with the use of hydroponic mics.
The resonance to understanding this embodied relationship is perceived through my understanding of abstractions, and a personal enquiry into sound as energy and communication through animist beliefs. These are details I am exploring throughout my practice.
'Folonko' is a project I intend to develop as a sound art installation and exhibit in England, The Gambia and Internationally.
I offer special thanks and my deepest respect to the elders at the Folonko Pool for granting me permission to share their rituals.
© Tony Spencer