I am beginning this post just after saying goodbye to Fatou. She offered me her left hand as a handshake, a real gesture of friendship. I’ve promised to stay in touch with everyone and to try and come back to continue my work here. I’m surprised at being so sad to leave! When I first arrived I was a bit overwhelmed, but now I am not at all anxious to go.
The fellowship I was awarded to make this trip was given in the name of Delbert Highlands, a former professor of mine at Carnegie Mellon University. As I remember Debert, he was a hard character but thoughtful and filled with reflections on the past and architecture. The fellowship described Delbert in this way:Professor Highlands emphasized the “individual,” the “particular” and the “local” in his teaching. His courses were grounded in authoritative scholarship and meticulously presented fundamentals, but always went further: asking students to think of “this time,” “this place” and this “occupancy.”
My proposal for this fellowship was entitled “Exploring Gambian Vernacular through Louisiana Creole Eyes,” and it was my intention to work in the spirit of Delbert to look at The Gambia in a particular and local way, through the eyes of a person informed of the Louisiana Creole perspective. In addition to the stories of meeting people through the Polaroids shown in this blog, I have investigated the Gambian design school system and spent time at the national archive. I’ve documented as much as I can through photography, video, and sound recording. I have a lot of work ahead of me compiling this all.
I’m grateful for this opportunity and hope to continue with future study in The Gambia. As I reflect on this experience, I feel pleasantly surprised by the consistency of my experience with the mission Delbert set. I also believe I now better understand the importance of being in “this place, time, and occupancy,” and I hope that I have experienced and recorded a particular local place and the roles of individuals who make it.