Back when the much-anticipated Monument to the African Renaissance had its grand ‘coming out party,’ in April there was a ceremony that included only the most appropriate celebrities to accompany the 164-foot bronze statue of a muscle-bound man holding up a pointing baby, whilst a scantily clad lady clings to him as if being blown away by the Atlantic Ocean winds.Those in attendance for the opening ceremonies included Akon, Jesse Jackson and Robert Mugabe. Quite a photo opp. Course, a photographer usually needs to get in shooting distance for there to actually exist said photo-opp.But with dozens of heads of states slated to attend the ceremony, security was tight. And by tight I mean lots of dudes in camo pushing all the journalists around. Cuz you know how dangerous journos are.This manhandling of photographers is how I was exposed to my first toeing of the line of photographers. At one point some photographer from some country I don’t remember said we ALL had to put down our cameras to protest the fact that the military dudes weren’t letting us get any shots of all those pretty heads of state (and AKON!). So, while I understood their gumption – most of these photogs had travelled thousands of miles for the ceremony and weren’t about to go home without a shot – this freelancer kept thinking, “But DUUUUDE.. I’m a freelancer. I can’t HURT my camera or there goes my paycheck…”But alas, I joined the others, but not before I got this shot of cameras, army boots and PR heels.
Oh, and here’s that Monument.
One of the random reasons I enjoy Senegal so much is because of the diverse array of influences that come from all over the world. And nothing illustrates that better than the language, I think. I realized the other day that within a five second exchange, you can sometimes use five different languages.For example, a typical greeting exchange might go as you pass a casual friend…
“Salaam Maleekum. Ca Va? Mangui Cool…. OK, Ciao!”
“Peace be Upon You (Arabic). How’s it going? (French) I am (Wolof) Cool (English)… OK, Bye! (Italian)”
Time to share the media wealth…One of my guardian angels, Leita Kaldi, has published her book on Senegal. Here’s a review by author (and fellow Sarasotan) Tony D’Souza. Leita is one of the biggest reasons I came to Senegal. You know those people who come into your life and, if you let them, completely change it? Yeah – Leita is one of those. When I met her and learned she had lived in Senegal, I told her I wanted to go, too. She clasped her hands together and exclaimed, “OH well then darling, you will, and you MUST!”I actually read her book back in 2007, when it was some looseleaf sheets of paper binded together. It tells all about her adventures and lessons as a Peace Corps volunteer here in Senegal.
One of the reasons it stands out is that unlike most Peace Corps peeps who come here in their 20s, Leita came to West Africa already in wizened and well into middle-age. But somehow she always strikes you as one of those people who looks at life through the eyes of a 12-year-old. Anyway, I read her stories, and I remember crying and laughing at the different people and interactions she described. She’s awesome, and so is her book.
And for a little musical pleasure, here’s a music video my husband was watching yesterday that I liked. From a photography point of view, it’s gorgeous. I love the attention to intimate details: the feet dancing, the hands, the fabrics. And anyone who knows me knows how I feel about backlighting. A little Wolof… one of the things they repeat is”Kham Sa Bopp” means literally “To Know Your Head…” or “Know Thyself”.. at least I think. Any Wolof speakers (Naomi?) feel free to correct me if I’m wrong..
I’m back in Dakar (after almost two months in the States), and I’m back to blogging (after almost five months of neglect!)Here’s a photo from a trip I did back in late February when I went with UNICEF to cover a big announcement that the region in Southeastern Senegal has abandoned Female Genital Cutting (FGC). It is the first entire region to formally declare its legal intention to abandon the practice. I’ve done some sporadic coverage of this topic before, and in Senegal the practice has been significantly on the decline for many years. I always admire the courage of women and girls who can demand change.