#dakarproject

Photo 003 - Untitled

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

#dakarproject
#dakarproject

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.

Mustapha Bembe, Hairdresser

When I was a little boy I hated to go to the hairdresser. I was very proud of my long hair and curls and I couldn’t understand why my mother was so insistent to expose her son to the cruel ritual. I remember holding the sacrificed locks in my fists with the hope that I could glue them back. I can still see the face of my persecutor – damn you the Edward Scissor-hand of my childhood.

In the beginning of the nineties, I was the French version of Serpico or Cat Stevens, beard and curly hair roaming the streets of Paris, Toronto and London. Muslim men were greeting me like a brother as well as heavy metal fans. I was wild in appearance and young at heart. 

My first trip to Africa changed my relationship with my hair. In the Masai Mara, ticks and fleas adopted me almost immediately. I was there to film some wildlife without suspecting that my head was hosting bugs worth of a National Geographic documentary. It was unbearable… I resigned myself to go voluntarily to the local hairdresser. I was sitting in a hut while dozen of amused children and smiling adults were looking at me. The hairdresser didn’t show me magazines or hair style guides. He didn’t ask me what I wanted but instead it was “one cut fits all”. He shaved me completely. I was bold.

I was not upset or sad but instead I felt lighter and younger. I changed my opinion of a whole profession.

In Dakar, Mustapha Bembe is my hairdresser. He has his own salon, next to the mosque and few meters from my flat. Mustapha is a business man. He believes in diversification of activities. In his salon, he is a barber, a newsagent and a grocer. This is surreal and unique: Melons, bananas, passion fruits, mangoes, next to big bags of rice and onions, local newspapers and few magazines in French and of course two chairs and a massive mirror. 

The prices are clearly marked and I know already that it will cost me less than 10 dollars to be pampered African style. Mustapha is a good barber but I takes his time. Correction… his different activities are distracting him all the time. He stops every few minutes to serve fruits, to collect money for the newspapers and to accept deliveries. 

I was not surprised when he stopped one more time to conduct Salat (prayer)

“All service is for Allah and all acts of worship and good deeds are for Him. Peace and the mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you O Prophet…”

I looked at my head half shaved and the reflection of Mustapha praying outside the salon. I was the unwilling but thankful witness of his faith. I closed my eyes and allow myself to share the profound quality of his prayer. My barber is a peaceful man of God. I couldn’t ask for more.