Design, Innovation, Vision
About This Project


Spearman a full-size single-screen video installation depicting a West African musician named Spearman. In 2014 he left his home village of Kartong, The Gambia, to embark on a dangerous migration over land and sea heading for Europe, in the hope of a better life.


The site-specific work by artists Tony Spencer and Kye Wilson, was premiered at the Kartong International Festival in 2017, together with a live performance by Spearman’s former traditional West African arts troupe Kouma Kan (Many Voices Together).


Spearman was premiered in England inside a 20ft shipping container as part of the Journeys Festival International, Portsmouth 2017. The work was accompanied by drumming from Master Drummer Khalifa Conte, Tony Spencer and local drummers including members of Drum-Nation.


The high-definition video was filmed in January 2017 on location in Kunsou, Germany where the musician now resides. He is depicted in traditional Djembe Fola (African Drummer) costume, performing West African rhythms: Soko, Dunumba and Komodenu.


Spearman left Africa, and took with him the musical knowledge of his cultural tradition, yet with no passport or visa to return home. He joined a progressively growing number of migrating Africans who take the ‘Back Way’ from Libya, North Africa across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy or Spain, as a solution to escape from poverty and suppressive governments.


With the use of technology Spencer and Wilson propelled Spearmanback into the future, occupying a place in space and time within his home village of Kartong, enabling him to rejoin Kouma Kan as a simulacrum ‘digital being’.


“During a two-year self-directed residency in Kartong, I rehearsed and performed alongside Spearman as a member of Kouma Kan. We developed a strong bond and when he left the village, I had no idea of his whereabouts. I became aware of the growing media attention to the ‘migration crisis’ and the recurring subject of migrant deaths at sea. My hope was that Speaman had not succumb to this tragedy, and become a Global statistic.


The work Spearman isn’t intended to focus on the tragic deaths of African migrants; it aims to create a dialogue about the reasons for migration, exploring themes of solidarity, existentialism, African tradition, identity and integration.”

Tony Spencer


Spearman Details

Single-channel high definition (1920x1080p) video installation,
colour, stereo sound,
Blu-ray Disc, aspect ratio 16:9 (portrait format),
23:04 (continuous loop),

© Tony Spencer and Kye Wilson 2017


Performer – Famara Bojang (Spearman)
Editor – Neil Hunt
Production Assistant – Helena Eflerová
Photography – Modou Lamin Dumbaya – Association of Photo Journalists The Gambia, Helena Eflerová

Special thanks to: Kouma Kan Africa, Khalifa Conte, Charlotte Bradley, Vanley Burke, Tina Pringle-Hamilton, Kate Davey, Kerry McPhail, Drum Nation, Journeys Festival International, Kartong International Cultural Festival, Modou Manneh, Amadou Sambou, Sam Teflon, Sandele Eco Retreat.

Spearman was supported by public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.

Essays / Reviews