Guillem Valle: The Sea Inside

The Malaysian island of Nabul is a very peaceful place. There is where the Bajau live. Indigenous to the area, they are among the ocean nomads of the world, spending their lives aboard their boats. LFI spoke to photographer Guillem Valle about the concepts of states, identity, freedom and a magical underwater world. Below is a sample of this interview that appears in the latest issue of LFI.

Q: How would you describe daily life for the Bajau people?

A: Their lives are defined by the rhythm of the ocean tides. There are many small diving  resorts on the little islands off the coast of north-eastern Borneo. The Bajau live on these tiny outposts in the middle of the ocean and spend most of their day fishing. Then they try and sell their catch to the resorts or directly to the tourists. After that they head out to sea again. Life is easy and relaxed.

Q: What reasons led you to do a reportage on the Bajau?

A:  I just happened to see a BBC documentary about this particular ethnic  group, and it was at the time when I was considering various  approaches to my long-term project on stateless people around the world. It’s a project I’ve been working on for over ten years now.

Q: From the Kurds in Syria to the Bajau in Southeast Asia, both groups live without their own state, but under totally different circumstances. Do these people have something in common?

A: These different groups all strive for one thing in common — the recognition of their identity; in some cases tied to the country they want to claim as their own. I’ve thought a lot about this connection between identity and a physical place, and it always brings me back to the same question: is it necessary to establish frontiers and raise flags to be aware of who you really are?

Thank you for your time, Guillem!

- Leica Internet Team

Connect with Guillem on his website. You can read Guillem’s full interview in LFI. Also available for the iPad and Android.