- The crossed fence of the eglise St Charles Borromee
I have to take few minutes of my work time to share what I have seen on my way to the office. A young boy is guiding a blind man – his grandfather? – in the middle of a busy avenue between Liberte 5 and 6, Dakar. He leaves him next to another blind man who is eating a piece of baguette and drinking a hot drink. Both men are talking to each other and despite their inability to see each other…they are smiling.
The young boy returns carrying a piece of the pavement far too heavy for him. He helps the old man to sit on it. The old man is still talking but he is gently caressing the boy’s head. The traffic is clearing and my taxi is moving. Nothing is more beautiful than to have the possibility and willingness to open your eyes at the world. Today, two blind men taught me that.
#dakarproject – Le vieux
Photo 005 – Le vieux
I live in the street Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Dakar. The name was very familiar but I had to google it to appreciate the fact that I was residing under the good omen of a great African leader. He was “le vieux” (the old one) or papa Houphouet for the Ivorians. Like many interesting leader, he was not the product of a party system instead he was a doctor, an administrator, a unionist and ultimately, a politician…He was elected as a parliamentarian in France and became the principal enabler of the French decolonisation in Africa. He was a moderate leader who led the economical rise and influence of the Ivory Coast.
You cannot be an African leader without being part of few coups d’Etat and he was in 1966 and 1977 in Burkina Faso. He was a fervent anti-communist when Africa was seduced by Moscow and inspired by Cuba. The West liked him and his nickname was the “sage of Africa”. So wise, that the UNESCO created a Peace prize in his homage.
Africa has a rich history. The question is what the continuity of this history will look like at the dawn of the 21st century. I am wondering if during my chapter of life in this continent, I will witness the coming of a new generation of enlightened African leaders…
Mandela said during his inaugural address in 1994, “Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual. We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens.”
Where are the “papa Houphouet” and the Madiba of the future? I am sure that many Africans are asking themselves the same question.
Photo 004 – Madiba
“I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself”
Street Art from the Pikine area, Dakar November 2013
Photo 003 – Untitled
I have a lot of admiration for people who are able to nurture their passion for an entire life. I respect and envy the consistency of their love and dedication. My new friend is not the richest but he collects paintings and sculptures from various parts of West Africa with consistency and with a compromising ability to persuade his wife to allow him to do so. He doesn’t make big declaration on why he loves a piece instead it is about emotions usually a first impression. It is as simple as this. When I saw this piece earlier today, I felt very jealous because I will not see it every day… It talked to me vividly and I don’t have the ability to capture my sentiments for it with words. Why should I anyway?
- #dakarproject – Dakar design
I studied Arts in France. I was able to enjoy indigenous and modern art in Australia with even a little bit of capacity to own some. However, I was not expecting to witness the expression of a vibrant artistic community in Dakar. I was wrong and happy of it.
My friends love design and Art. Experiencing rich of flavours, beautiful and healthy African food in a perfectly designed home was not like any ordinary Saturday. Next discovery: few Senegalese Art Galleries…
The #dakarproject is not a new idea, it has been done before: capturing 365 photos over a year. Each photo will have a background story as part of my daily life in Dakar, Senegal. I hope that this personal project will provide you with the desire to know more about Africa or for some of you to love Africa even more.
Photo 001: The heart of Africa.
In Dakar, I don’t have a car. Everyday, I meet a new taxi driver. Some of them are quiet, others are very chatty. This morning, the young driver was silent. It was an early start of the day, I was tired myself. The silence was comforting for both of us.
The “heart of Africa” was suspended on the inside mirror. The heart is a cheap tourist memorabilia but I liked it and it amused me, moving around after each bump or hole on the road (you can have many of them in the rugged streets of the city). The driver saw me looking at it and he gently said “Do you like Africa?”, I looked at him and carefully replied in French “yes I do…very much so”. He didn’t respond and drove me to my destination in silence.
In the recent days, we have experienced one of the greatest natural disaster ever recorded. In the Philippines, thousands of people have died and many more are unaccountable for. Many areas of the country have been destroyed and it will take years of efforts, investments, tears but also hope to rebuild. Working for an organisation like World Vision, oblige you to be closer to the tragedy because friends are working hard to organise, witness, transport, report, mobilise, advocate, support, pray and fund raise. So make it personal too. Donate if you can, talk about it with your friends, family and children, be engaged if you have the time.In the case, you are too busy, please stop for a second and allow a little bit of your humanity to reach out to the survivors, my courageous colleagues and all the other dedicated Aid partners too. Just make it personal. Thank you for them.
There is an Art in everything.
I thought about it this morning when I remembered the genuine and beautiful invitation received from Abdoulaye. The most striking aspect of this man is his smile, it is a constant part of his face, something immutable. I met him a week ago during a flash visit to Nouakchott. As soon as Abdoulaye realised my uncontrollable desire to discover Mauritania, he opened his arms and joyfully said: Sinthiane!
It was spontaneously beautiful and I felt already welcomed.
Sinthiane is the name of his native village. It means “new home”. A home in the south of the country near the Senegal river.
Timbuktu (Mali), Gao (Mali), Atar (Mauritania) are legendary cities of the region which have inspired poems, conquests and myths but nowadays they are outreached. These anthological cities are more and more isolated due to wars and rebellions.
Abdoulaye’s invitation offers me some new opportunities of discovery. Like a great artist, he has laid before me a new canvas for my imagination and curiosity.
Soon, I will rejoice at my return to the desert and being welcomed by the smile of my new friend.
Two opposed directions, two cities emblematic of the countries in my life and I am living in the middle…
November 2013, Dakar, Senegal