Foreign Light, 2015
framed pigment print, 23 x 30 cm.

I saw the Southern Cross for the first time when the lights went out on the beach of Stone Town on Zanzibar Island. The terrestrial darkness caused by the nightly power outage engulfed the exotic surroundings and an all-encompassing sensation of foreignness came over me as I sat under the lights of an unfamiliar night sky.

I knew the cross-shaped constellation only from images and stories. For centuries, its two brightest stars, Alfa Crucis and Gamma Crucis, have been used in navigation to mark South. The constellation took my mind into the company of the early explorers who travelled through unknown waters with the help of these celestial reference points and eventually arrived on the shore of the island on the coast of Western Africa where I now sat. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to dwell on the view for a while.

Some years later, I saw the Crux again on the page of a book I was browsing in a library. Right in the middle of the photograph, between the two brightest stars, was a vast dark area. I remember noticing a void a few years back while gazing at the stars on the beach of Stone Town. This dark area is called the Coalsack. It’s a dark nebula that reflects only 10% of the light from the dense clouds of stars it obscures. It takes 600 years for this dim light to reach our eyes. While staring at the dark void in the image, I was delighted to realise that I was looking at 600 years of history. This dim light started its journey around the same time as Vasco da Gama, who was guided by those same lights as his ship brought the seeds of European colonialism to the Island of Zanzibar.

A photograph of the night sky compresses a distance of trillions of kilometres onto its surface – a distance that is ultimately a coexistence of light and time. By looking at the night sky I’m looking into the past, and the 600 years of history gives birth to a myriad of potential images. And I start to think: is the primary function of a photograph to serve as a guide for a viewer to create her images? Maybe the decisive moment emerges somewhere between the visible and the imaginary – in the exchange of secrets between the view and the viewer.

The photograph of the Southern Cross took me back to Stone Town with Vasco da Gama. In order to remember this journey I decided to reproduce the image with my mobile phone. The camera flash created a large bright star in the middle of the Photograph, on top of the Coalsack nebula. A flash replaced 600 lightyears as history was once again merged into the present.