Passing Time No. 1, 2017 (excerpt)
Running time: 10:06 minutes / HD / colour

A man walks on the shores of Lake Manyara at 7am on December 16, 2016.

Camera: Sylvia Safdie
Editing: Patrick Andrew Boivin, Sylvia Safdie
Audio: Silent

In my travels to Lake Manyara, Tanzania, I was struck by the relationship between man/woman, animal and land. While traditionally pastoral life is still maintained, it is being threatened by outside influences. Whether watching the migration of animal, observing the herdsmen graze their cattle, or seeing people walking towards their destination, there is a sense of harmony between man/woman, animal and land.

In Passing Time, a man walks along the shores of lake Maynard in Tanzania. It is December, there has not been rain and the land is dry. It is the colour of yellow ash. Closer to us however there is still the remnant of wilting green grass that is in the process of drying. In the distance are mountains and trees. The sun has yet to arrive to illuminate them – for now they are hues of dark greenish grey. The morning sun is shifting, and the distant mountains cast shadows that move and transform the colour of the land with the passing time. It happens quietly and subtly – we hardly see the transformation. However, if we shift our gaze away for a time and return to the sight we will note a whole new colour scheme.

The man is dressed in a red cape – he is holding a white bag. His stride and his footsteps seem to move in a continuous, even rhythm. Footstep upon footstep, he moves along. We do not feel that he is just wandering, He moves with certainty – we believe he knows his destination, which we do not and will never know. We will never know his name or the content of his bag. We will never know anything about him except that for now he is making this journey, that he is walking towards a destination.

At one point he will slow down, shift his weight, lift both his arms, and continue to walk. As he walks, he appears smaller and smaller. He becomes enveloped in shadow. His robe no longer appears red. The whole vista darkens. The sun has moved behind the clouds. We do not know this, but we can assume it. His image gets smaller and smaller as he continues his journey. He is now a mark in nature.

I am overcome by the fact that the figure in this video resembles the figures that I captured in my drawings and paintings in a series titled “Earth Marks”. What fascinated is that the figures in my drawings and painting were informed by my own gestures both metaphorically and physically, but the figure that I filmed in this video is an actual figure, involved in an activity at a given moment in time and place.

Passing Time No. 1 was show at the exhibition Terre des Femmes at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal in 2017.