Nick Kozak's sensitive photographs of an overcrowded African community under threat

All photography courtesy of Nick Kozak. © Nick Kozak

Guet Ndar on the Langue de Barbarie in the Senegalese city of Saint-Louis forms the basis of this beautiful series by photojournalist and documentary photographer, Nick Kozak.

A community of fishermen and their families, it's believed that over 30,000 people are squeezed onto the land between the Atlantic Ocean to the west and the Senegal River to the east, all hoping to make a living from the sea. But all that is under threat.

"Guet Ndar is one of the most densely populated urban areas in all of Africa and some say the world. Many people come from outside of Saint-Louis to live and or work in the neighbourhood, which places further strain on an already overcrowded community," says Nick.

"The challenge of overpopulation in Guet Ndar is augmented by severe deficiencies in infrastructure, including water drainage, insufficient electrical connections, and poor road conditions. Lack of waste management means most rubbish ends up in the river and the ocean along with human and animal waste. Residents are faced with coastal erosion that has led to the destruction of hundreds of homes and other buildings directly adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean."

As one resident of Guet Ndar told Nick, "the sea comes to rest and we have put many things in its ways but they won't stop it."

Fishermen are also faced with overfishing, commercial trawlers, and the day-to-day dangers of being on the ocean. "With 70 per cent of the country’s protein consumption coming from fish, Senegal is highly dependant on its fishing industry for protein," Nick continues. "In 2003, the municipality of Saint-Louis made a breach in the Langue de Barbarie as a measure against flooding. The breach has quickly grown in size and has become a source of danger for fishermen who claim more than 375 deaths have been caused by it.

"As the beach narrows due to coastal erosion, Guet Ndar is shrinking. Its population, dependent on its access to the Atlantic Ocean and tied to the land, has no space left to grow. Since both the habitat and industry are under grave threat, the current situation may be a sign of an end of an era for this fishing community."

Nick Kozak's work in Senegal was supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak

© Nick Kozak