Bénédicte Kurzen


As a unique freshwater lake in the middle of the parched Sahara desert, Lake Chad is an ecological miracle and, for thousands of years, it has been a source of life, resilience and prosperity. But over the past few decades the water level has dropped by up to 80 per cent. Today, the parts of Niger, Nigeria, Chad and Cameroon that border on Lake Chad represent a region torn apart by ideological and political conflicts. For many years now the photographer Bénédicte Kurzen has been looking at power relations in post-colonial African states, which are characterised by conflicts and huge socio-economic upheavals.The series Lake Chad Chronicles (2016-2018) is a long-term project in which Kurzen focuses on the region’s landscape, culture and society. Bénédicte Kurzen originally worked in the field of documentary photography, but for this project she has gone far beyond that realm. In her vivid and vibrant images of everyday scenes and landscapes, in still lifes and portraits, she attempts to convey a feeling for the region rather than relay concrete or objective facts. The cropped details and perspectives that Kurzen has chosen for this purpose emphasise the subjective as a mosaic stone within a greater whole. Bénédicte Kurzen, born 1980, lives in Lisbon, Portugal.

Bénédicte Kurzen, geboren 1980, lebt derzeit in Lissabon, Portugal.

Lake Chad Region

There was a time when Lake Chad was the most important water reservoir in the Sahel and, therefore, for the 30 million people living in the four adjoining countries of Chad, Cameroon, Niger and Nigeria. The lake itself is very shallow, and its shoreline changes rapidly as water levels fluctuate. Climate change has intensified the dynamics of existing conflicts and now poses new risks. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), the main causes of the lake’s desiccation besides climatic change have been the abstraction of water from the lake and its main tributaries Chari and Logone for agricultural irrigation and dam projects. Fishing villages that were once located right by the lakeshore are now some twenty kilometres from the water’s edge. The drying-up of the lake has resulted in the relocation of populated areas and grazing land and in increased national, cultural and social conflicts as part of the struggle for the scarce resources and for control over the water supply.
  • Ahmad Salkida, Africa’s vanishing Lake Chad. Action needed to counter an “ecological catastrophe”, Africa Reneval 4/2012 (United Nations magazine).
  • adelphi research (Hg.), Shoring up stability: Addressing climate and fragility risks in the Lake Chad region, Report, 15.05.2019.

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