Torn between their religion, their land, and the history of their ancestors, the Pomaks are strangers in their own country. French artist Camille Carbonaro re-creates a roadmap, a tool of battling alienation which is used to transcribe the memory, the resentments, the generosity, and the faith of a neglected people.

The old lady measures me with a piece of red wool, cuts it between her fingers and preciously puts it in my pocket. She has two little black pearls instead of eyes and her smile so pure seems to come from as far back as her childhood. We walk through the forest for hours. The children of the village follow us, taking care never to overtake us. Clothes are hanging from the trees. They surround them like scarves, as if to protect them from the cold. They’re ageless, but I can feel their souls dancing around us. I’m not supposed to touch them. It’s not time for them to be woken up. I leave my backpack at the entrance of the sanctuary. The two of us cross between the trees and their clothes to a rock with a hole in it. A wooden fence is covered with countless red wools that twirl in the wind. The emptiness left by the stone seems to me to be a meeting point, it clears a small passage that a ladder invites us to cross over. I put my piece of red wool on the fence and climb the ladder to the hole formed by the rock. The old lady guides me. I don’t understand it all, but if I believe in it hard it will work. She climbs the ladder and goes to the other side. I follow her and cross. We look out into the distance, towards Greece. There is silence. I feel even more intensely the sun warming my skin, or maybe it’s just my heart accelerating. I look at her, she closes her eyes, she believes in it. Hands up, we pray to Allah. I throw coins across the cliff while the old lady recites the same sentence several times: They have the money and we have the heart.

Somewhere in the Rhodope mountains, Bulgaria.

Camille Carbonaro, born in Marseille and based in Brussels, is a photographer, visual artist, and publisher. She is the founder of the publishing house MACARONIBOOK and founder of the EAT MY PAPER platform, check more of her projects here.

© Photos and collages/ Camille Carbonaro
© Text/ Camille Carbonaro with the help of Mathieu Brunel 
© Archives/ Mehmed Boyukli