My day in Makusutu Wildlife Forest was perhaps my worst of any in my trip. The night before I suffered from my only bout of “Banjul Belly,” and I felt detached and woozy most of the day. The three kilometer walk from Brikama was not a help on a steamy day either, but I enjoyed the landscape regardless. Plus, I got to see some baboons up close! They are pests around here, and I got to see them being shewed away.

Nuha was the foreman on repairs being made to the lodge at Makusutu, and he was directing about five men at the time I was there. The lodge includes some lovely floating hoses built on barges in the marshes of the River Gambia that are quite nice, but are not indigenous. There are two forms of tourism in the Gambia, eco and beach. This would be an example of eco-tourism, ironic that the amount if steel, lumbar, gigantic pool, and luxurious “huts” on barges seemed to be worlds away from the indigenous communities I had seen earlier.

It was great to visit the lodge, but it was my intention from the start not to investigate the tourist architecture and design of The Gambia. I think my stomach that day may have sealed the deal – Alieu seemed surprised that I asked as few questions as I did. There are a few lodges of this type along the river, and the beach tourist areas, center on a community called Senegambia, are replete with modern convenience and priced far outside of the reach of Gambians. The tourism industry caters to northern Europeans during the winter months, and my trip is during the off season. In my opinion the tourism industry is much underdeveloped. For my trip, though, I hope to focus on the life of Gambians rather than the tourism industry, but I should recognize the intertwined nature of this part of the Gambian economy. Plus, my weekly trip to the Senegambia tourist strip is the only place I can get the wi-fi to upload these posts from iPad!

Carpenters – Half Die, Banjul

This was the first set of carpenters I spoke with – I have an earlier post about them. They were the first people I spoke with about buildings, design, and craftsmanship, and I should have been more thorough and gotten their names. Luckily, I was more thorough in future visits with others people. They, like everyone, had me photograph the photographs they had of their work. At first I thought I was doing this to be polite as they showed me their work, but now I realize that I have a great record of the work of these craftsmen.

In this image they are working on a suite of upholstered parlor furniture. The frames are plywood, and the final product will take a bulbous overstuffed art deco meets 80s era “pleather ” form. (I am working on a more academic description, but I think I make my point.) These suites are usually four chairs and one large sofa, all with rolled arms and usually some wooden detail at the arm front. I saw them in many homes, and of various quality. These will have a plush fabric upholstery which you can see being sown in the back ground.

This is not a Polaroid. It is one of my DSLR images.

Modou Bah – Albert Market, Banjul

A few days after I first met some the carpenters above, I decided to meet a few more. I am much more comfortable meeting people now, and I think I learn more because of it. Modou did not have a market stall, rather a large open work area where he was able to make a number of pieces of furniture at one as well as display. I could not decipher if the large area was to this benefit, or if his lack of a stall was a detriment. I gathered that it was half a dozen of one and six of the other.

My time with Modou, with the help of Alieu, helped me to see that many researchers might focus more on the ethnographic story at hand than I did. And although I did find that Modou was Fula, had been working in the market for ten years, had trained as an apprentice, and was training a few of his own, I was more interested in the work he was completing and how he was completing it. I got great pictures from his set of sample photos, and I got a good explanation of the different materials he used and the styles he preferred, the heart motif you see here is common throughout the Gambia, as is the bulbous rococo style.

Modou works in plywood, keno, and mahogany. I got some great video of Modou carving a plywood pattern, and most of the work he had around was clear stained plywood as shown in this picture. Keno is a local hardwood that has a wide variety of tones from very light to a dark warm brown. It seems too varied to my eye, but local craftsmen comment on the beauty of it whenever asked to describe it.

Every carpenter I met was an independent business man, and they shared their phone numbers with me. I agreed to share them. Modou’s number is 9118903. :).


Agibou Jallow – Albert Market, Banjul

You can see here that Agibou and I hit it off. He was enthusiastic about his work and spoke of his love of the craft and the freedom being carpenter gave him from management and a fixed schedule. Of everyone I spoke with he seemed to be the most of an artisan. He worked alone in a small stall and was working on a pattern for a bed when I arrived. He explained that he is often hired to just draw the carving pattern either by clients directly or other carpenters.

Agibou was Fula like Modou, but it was explained to me here that tribe and trade are not strongly linked.

Agibou was also working on a parlor suite in a style I found frequitly, but not as common as the overstuffed deco suites. These suites are very rectilinear, and some examples appear almost like knock-offs of craftsmen Morris chairs. I think it more a matter of the pragmatics of assembly than a direct reference, but there is much research to be done on that I am sure. It is clear to me that these craftsman style pieces are falling out of fashion; you will see complete sets with the upholstery or cushions removed piled up as scrap wood. They are typically mahogany, which is expensive in The Gambia comparative to other materials, but still a common site. It is also a common site to see mahogany being sawn for making fishing boats, construction lumber, or large chords being put in containers for export to China and India. There seems to be no controls regarding deforestation, a concern for many Gambian intellectuals.

Agibou, though, was working in pine for this specific suite. This seemed strange to me, and we had a great conversation about pine and it’s workability and color. When I explained that where I lived in the U.S. I was surrounded by pine forests his eyes lit up like mine did when I first saw all of the mahogany lying around in The Gambia. We shared that irony with a laugh. Pine is imported and while not a precious luxury, it has a price on par with mahogany. People like it for the knotted texture and variation of color. Agibou and I got another good laugh when I said that was considered “common” in the U.S., and he said the same of the dark consistant color of mahogany. Pine is considered a fine finish wood in The Gambia, and you can see it being used to trim atound around rough carpentry and structural mahogany.

Agibou’s numbers are 9943081 and 7943081.

Ibrahem Singnathi – Albert Market, Banjul

Albert Market is the main market of Banjul. It sits atop an area know as Wolof Town. Wolof Town and Half Die are separated by Banjul’s central axis from the colonial areas of Portuguese Town and New Town. (many of the colonial trading companies working in English administer Gambia were Portuguese.) The central axis is Rene Blain Street around which is flanked by a narrow area called soldier town. The plan of the city is similar in shape to a boomerang, Rene Blain is the short line of symmetry while the colonial and indeginous/Creole areas form the swept back wings. For those who know New Orleans, it is hard not to see a direct comparison to Canal Street and its dividing of the American sectors from the French Quarter and Creole faubourgs. Along with Janjangbureh, this is one of the few Gambian examples of the black/white division seen more frequently in American colonies.

Albert Market is at the black shoulder of the boomerang and is a center of activity for the entire city. It is a place for merchants to squeeze a penny out of customers even though the market sellers seemed to have friendly relations with each other. When you interview people in West Africa, it is appropriate to leave people with a token of your appreciation, and these Polaroids have been wonderfull expressions of thanks. But I have also been giving small informant fees ($1-3) at the close of my interviews. The fees are not an obligation, but they are not a surprise to my interviewees either. I think, though, the news that toubab was handing out money for carpenters had gotten around, and Ibrahem was enthusiastic to show me his stall. He explained that he had two apprentices (in the right of this photo) and had been working for thirteen years. I did not see any work underway, but there was a lot of mahogany craftsmen style components about. I asked what hours he work, and he explained that sometimes he works all day, other times he does nothing and lays about … “the African way.”

“The African way” is a term that I hear frequently. It is usually used to describe lazing about waiting for something to do for reasons of beurocracy or lack of opportunity. Many people seem to use it with irony describing their own situation. One young man told me that he can spend a day reading for his own intelectual development, studying for comprehensive exams, then just sitting under a tree …, “you know, the African way.” Other people use it, I hypothesize, to explain marijuana use, but frank conversations about this, like many vices in West Africa, are difficult.

Sainey Jallow – Brikama, Kombo North

Brikama is listed as The Gambia’s third largest city behind Banjul and Serekunda (considered the coastal urban centers) but most Gambian’s will tell you it is larger than Banjul. It is also geographically large; the first major city outside of the coastal urban centers, but many Gambian’s describe Brikama as quickly, if not already, becoming part of the urban core.

Space is certainly one of the main traits of Brikama, and has taken a little acculturation for me to recognize this. Shops are often individual, although spaced by only a yard or two, and the shops are larger. Sainey’s shops was large to my eye, although he demurred to agree with me. He had eight apprentices and reported steady growth in his business since he opened in 2006. Unlike many of the carpenters I spoke with, he volunteered that he completed grade twelve, and he employed many young highschoolers who would become carpenters after completing school. All of Sainey’s, and every carpenter I met, apprentices were male.

It is hard not to make the American parallel of Banjul as decaying urban core, Serekunda as a congested first ring, and Brikama as a sprawling, unyoked and soon to boom outer ring.

Sainey showed me his work in plywood and keno. He had a few beds about that had the trademark keno striking variation between dark and light grains. Sainey also showed me work he did in maligna. Maligna is an indeginous soft wood similar to pine which the carpenters generally refer to as “white wood.” Maligna is affordable, and used for all applications, but it is not resilient to termites like mahogany or keno, and it does not have the desired preferred “richness” of grain that pine does.

Tucked away in Sainey’s shop was a hand carved keno door. It was detailed, intricate, and seemed to have references to traditional West African wood carvings. It was completed for one of the tourist lodges in near by Makasutu Culture Forest. I documented it, but I found through this conversation and others that the traditional wood carving was limited to tourist production now, and that little was done outside of souvenirs production. It has been a number of years since authentic wood carvings were readily avaiable, so I did not spend much time trying to investigate those. I did, though, find the ones I saw, and Sainey’s door, to be quite beautiful.

Babocar Sabally – Serekunda, Kanifing Region

The Kanifig region, which includes city of Serekunda (which is in turn divided into various districts), is The Gambia’s most densly populated area. Serekunda is located up against the marshlands of the River Gambia, but Kanifig extends out to the Atlantic ocean. This is one urban mass that forms the heart of the urban coastal center with Brikama, more suburban areas, and the tourist zone of Senegambia to the south. Banjul is a short 15 minute drive on a causeway through the River Gambia delta.

Babocar’s shop reflected this density, he even introduced it as the smallest shop I would see (as he grabbed my arm when I stepped through a cushion slat of the craftsman sofa “stored” in the entrance alleyway). Babocar explained the various sizes of wood as it comes from the local mill, which was immediately behind his shop. He explained the price differences between woods, that kano is the most expensive at about $5 for a 1x6x1m. Mahogany for the same volume is about $3.50 while pine is about the same or a little less than mahogany. Maligna is significantly cheaper at about $1.75. The thought that pine and mahogany carry similar prices is hard for me to believe given the premium we pay for mahogany in the U.S.

When Bobocar showed me his work, We had a great conversation about current tastes. The range of color in kano and pine is particularly desirable, with mahogany preferred for traditioanalist and termite protection. Painted maligna and plywood was common at lower price points. Painted white or cream was very fashionable for a while. I noticed that white furniture was popular in photographs but limited in the shops. Babocar explained that the fashion now was brown, something I think is common in the U.S. now too. One thing I did not see were wood stains, and Babocar said that there was rairly any brown painting done – people wanted natural finishes. This was true of what I saw in the marketplace.

Pictured here in the long haftang, junior cleric Salem Mohmed Heidek has Famarah Heidah and Ousman Jawara to his right. They are between our driver, Wuuyeuh Manga and Hasssoum Ceesay. Their village of Toniataba is a regional center for Islamic study, and the junior cleric is the teacher there. The village is also the location of, reportedly, the largest round Mandinka hut in The Gambia. It was large, easily over 30 feet in diameter.

Salem and the village are used to occasional visitors, as the hut is listed in some versions of the Lonely Planet Travel Guide (but not mine), and was skeptical of my coming. Fortunately having a guide from the National Center for Arts and Culture seemed to put him more at ease, although in our conversation he also commented on promises other researchers had made to help in the maintenance / restoration of the hut that never materialized. Salem,though, become comfortable with me as we discussed the building. It was in this conversation that I realized that once people understood that I wanted to learn about their building / home / trade, they got comfortable with me quickly. I hope my enthusiasm for their buildings or work came through in translation. I think in this case it did.

Salem shared the history of the hut. It was built for an Islamic saint or walui named Saikou Ousoman Jimbiteh Fatty who was said to have mastered the Koran and to be close to Allah. He was also a successful farmer and provider, building this large hut as a record and legacy for people to use as an example of holy life. The building is now a tool for learning and in both the village and those who come to study in the village. If I have accomplished anything on this trip, perhaps digitally recording that story for the Gambian national archive is it. Everyone in my research party seemed very pleased to have recorded this. I noted to myself that the cleric was telling a familiar story, but that his voice had a soft and thoughtful tone, even more so than most Mandinka speakers who are very melodic in their cadence and rhythm.

The cleric shared additional information with me about the preservation of the building, describing the difficulties in repairing the mud walls and the use of mud brick to create repairs. He was concerned that once readily and immediately available roofing palm fronds were now a further and further trek away; making the biannual roof repairs more and more difficult. It was clear, though, that the village would do what was necessary to make repairs and that preservation was not a concern. He explained that the hut was over two hundred years old, but I would want to research and verify the date.

I was struck by the contrast of the attitude toward preservation of these structures and the colonial ones in Janjangbureh. I was left thinking that there was something to be said for the attitude of the locals in Janjangbureh towards the colonial structures. In order for something to be worth saving, the community has to value it. And although I found the colonial, particularly the Aku houses, quite nice, this hut was more essential to the Gambian identity of place.

I was not allowed to go or photograph inside this hut. The gentlemen of the village made it clear that it was off limits and there were even some things they were not sharing with me about it. But they did draw the plan in the sand for me. Explaining how there was an inner circle, which they drew as sealed, and how dwelling compartments surrounded the perimeter. To my eye no one was living there, but I could have been wrong. The building had a large covered verandah that is used a classroom and gathering space. I did get to photograph that.

Not being able to go inside has left me wanting to see more, and I intend to do additional research upon my return to the U.S. to find out more about the building as I am sure there is some academic documentation. I am excited to have recorded the oral history, and I think, if the building has some historical record, the discussion of the efforts for contemporary maintenance will be of interest to others.

 

This family of Fula were selling some old millet on the roadside where we stopped to make some minor repairs to the truck. We were headed upcountry and now out of the Foni district towards The Central River Region which is in the central part of The Gambia, across the Bintang Bolong, a major tributary to the River Gambia. Here the boarders with Senegal change from being a specific latitude to a mere 20km from the River Gambia.

I did not visit this compound, and mainly stood around being tapped by numerous small children who called out “toubab toubab.” Toubab is a term used primarily for white people but might refers to any outside visitor. I think they might tap for luck, or maybe to feel our strange white skin, or maybe just for fun. Many white people find this chant annoying, but I personally found it cute. Only small children seem to chant it. Every one calls white people toubab; it is not considered an insult or racist. I like the term because now when I hear people saying it, I am pretty sure they are talking about me. There are very few white people at all in The Gambia.

I was left with the impression that this group may be of a “lower social class,” most children in the middle class areas of the urban centers don't chant “toubab, toubab,” and my fellow travelers seemed a bit taken aback by the old millet for sale. Millet is a grain used for couscous and other grainy foods, and is a staple of the Gambian diet. Everyone is cheerful in this picture, but unfortunately, the camera jammed and we left before I could get them a copy. It was disappointing, and I could tell they felt as if I had broken a promise. We even failed to recognize the compound on our return trip so I was never able to get them a print of this picture. I was not a lucky toubab a that day.

 

I met Kemo in a small village along the main road leaving Janjangbureh. He is Mandinaka and his sister-in-law’s family lived in a compound building next to two older round mud brick huts. He is here in this photo with his nieces and nephews, along with Hassoum, in front of these huts. One hut was about 15 years old and the other was older than Kemo, who I guess to be about 30. Because the annual rains will deteriorate mud structures over time, it is unusual that these were not replaced. The newer one was being used for storage, but the older one was the home of Kemo’s grandfather. I was able to get some images inside of both, and I found them large, “clean,” and comfortable. I asked when they expected to replace these huts, noting that the rest of the compound was of a newer more resilient design, including some concrete. Kemo replied that he would be keeping them forever. I have the conversation recorded, but I was certain that this was in deference to his grandfather who, I gathered, would be respectfully allowed to live in whatever building he would like until his passing. I interpreted Kemo’s saying “forever” was his hoping for a long life for his grandfather.

In a baseball cap and to the right of Hassoum is the national parliamentary minister representing the Janjangbureh area, Foday Manka. I was honored to interview Minister Manka and to have him give me a tour of the town. Minister Minaka is also a local historian and author of a history of Janjangbureh; a copy of which he shared with me. (The photo here is not a Polaroid. It was taken with my DSLR.)

Janjangbureh is the indigenous name given to the original English colonial settlement of Georgetown upriver about 300km from the coast. The two names are now used interchangeably – it seems to be a common practice in The Gambia to have renamed geographical locations with indigenous names but to keep the English term in normal use. Janjangbureh is the only settlement in The Gambia that originated from an English gridded plan.

Today Janjangbureh’s population is in decline, currently 3,223 persons. Minister Manka explained two reasons for this, one is that all river towns fell into decline after Gambian independence in 1966 when the English stepped away from control of the river transportation corridor, the other is the rural to urban drift effecting the entire country. The last scheduled passenger service along the river stopped in the 1980s, reportedly due more to a lack of infrastructure maintenance than need. Since independence, The Gambia has focused on the development of roads rather than waterways. Many you speak with comment in the lost asset of the river, specifically as The Gambia is defined by the river.

My interview with Minister Manka started on a flat note as I asked a ridiculously general question due to my own unease and ignorance of the Minister’s sophisticated understanding of his home area. He politely suggested I asked more specific questions, and this started our conversation in a much more productive direction. I learned a lot about the town, and saved a great deal of face when I began to ask how citizens viewed the historic colonial structures of the town. We had a great conversation about those attitudes, derelict historical structures, and the local perception of them. The perception, it seems, is not one of respect but rather (and I am hypothesizing here) distrust. It is also hard for local residents to see any pragmatic value in these structures as they respond to English lifestyles and use building techniques that have neither survived or are native to the area.

On my tour I got to see the local school built in 1927 and other colonial structures such as the administration building, on the verge of total collapse, and housing structures built for civil servants. At the governors residence I met the current governor of the region, Ganya Touray, and the mayor of the coastal urban center of Serekunda, Yankubba Kolley. It is customary in West Africa to have extended greetings where you sit down exchange extended hellos and ask how things are where you are from, and my meeting with the Governor and the mayor consisted primarily of that. But the outcome of the meeting established a comfort level between us all, exchanging brief discussions about buildings etc., and they gave me access to crawl around many of the areas buildings. I did not, sadly, take any pictures in the governors residence as I thought it rude to even ask, but the interior was furnished with a suite of nice West African upholstered furniture (a typical set of four chairs and one sofa in a fashion I will describe in a future post) and had a grand sense of colonial scale. although like most of Janjangbureh, the building was in need of renovation and repair. I did get to take some great images in other buildings too.

The town itself has the feeling of a ghost town. The straight, gridded streets are almost empty, and most of any new development is clustered around the old town and in a traditional Africa fashion. I was introduced to the town chief, Jam Jaw, who was sitting outside one of the few open stores in the town with a few friends. I toured some of the old colonial industrial buildings which where not in use and was lucky to gain access to one of the Aku houses which still existed. This picture here was taken in that house. You can see that this building is vacant and in disrepair, although there was a lot of interesting repair work done by the owner who is trying to keep the structure from collapse. Notable to me was that the building was on a clay fired brick foundation; Akus would have been trained in this skill, but would have left with the British at the time of independence. You don’t see any signs of this technology elsewhere in the area today.

You can see in this picture that there is some interesting graffiti on the walls here. There were even more interesting graphics in other empty colonial structures … images of which I was able to get! (just wetting the appetite for my photo essays, haha).

Alieu Jawarah is my research assistant whose services I found through Bala Soha, a professor of African history at the University of Oklahoma. Alieu is an oral historian and videographer for the National Council of Arts and Culture of The Gambia. Alieu has some advanced training in video and sound technology, but advanced education in these subjects is limited in The Gambia. Not being trained in either myself, his services are a godsend. You can see here in this picture that he is holding the sound recorder. We have collected some great oral histories.

When you read research on West Africa written by white westerners, they will usually make some comment about the value of and special relationship with their research assistants. This is certainly true in my case with Alieu. The researcher / assistant partnership is a strange situation in that you as the researcher are directing the program and the plan, but they, as the local expert, actually see to it that your plan happens, acting as translator and interpreter. Alieu speaks three of The Gambia’s five languages fluently, Mandinka, Wolof, and English. He also speaks some Sarahulli, and a little Fula. English is The Gambia’s colonial and official language, while Wolof is the the lingua franca (language of commerce and trade), but the largest ethnic group is Mandinka. The most common language spoken in social and home settings is Mandinka. Alieu is Mandinka.

I find myself quite dependent on Aleiu, and as I try to think objectively about the situation, I realize that this dependency will shadow any research; should an assistant have a specific agenda a researcher may be directed down that path. Our match seems very comparable, though, as our interests in visual media is common. Alieu is a quiet man, and this is certainly a balance to my rambling mouth. He is also an expert assistant, slowly weaning me off of my dependency so that I can now take public taxis (usually s 90s era Mercedes 190D that carries up to four passengers for a flat fair onset routes from community to community) alone and hopefully soon the transport vans (similar to public taxis but crammed private minibuses).

Alieu brought me to his cousins wedding celbration at his sisters compound in Latrikunda. It was an incredible experience. I have never been to an Islamic wedding celebration and certainly not a West African or Gambian one. The official nuptial occurs at the local mosque and is conducted by the local imam, but family and friends of the couple gather at the brides family compound to celebrate before the nuptial and to greet and send of the bride after. The new husband does not attend the celebration. He is married at the mosque and then goes to his compound to prepare his home for his new wife that evening. This wedding was tempered by a death in the brides family, and the father of the bride requested that there be no celebratory music. Some of the young men listened to music on their cellphones, but I caught a look of reprimand from the bride’s father. The bride’s sisters were complaining that this was a bad situation while busily preparing for the celebration by donning colorful and stylish dresses. Alieu thought is was funny that I understood, in Wolof, “you look nice,” “thank you, you too, thank you, that is a very nice dress,” “oh, thank you, thank you, those are very nice shoes,” “oh, thank you thank you.” I explained the conversation was universal.

Alieu offered me a seat for the dowery presentation in the front row. All of the the friends and the family gathered around and the elders of the two families speak advice to each as to how to treat the new family members. As is typical of Gambian society, they speak to each other through griots. A griot is a special class in West Wfrican and Gambian society who are both revered story tellers and unwanted bums. The elders whisper to a griot who will then announce it loudly for everyone to hear. The griots spoke the advice with dramatic confrontation and humor to everyone’s entertainment. This concluded with the announcement of the dowery amount and with one griot choosing a bride’s family member to praise for her good heart and hospitality. The griot chose Alieu’s sister and slowly everyone started to hand her money which she gave to the griot. This built into more of a frenzy, at least to my eye, and the griot became more intense speaking to individuals. He confronted me and in sudden English said “what about you, what about you.” I was scared out of my skin and dug into my pocket and handed over a bill. Everyone laughed, and I was embarrassed. But as it turned out, the reaction played along well with the scene. As the frenzy built other, uninvited but accepted, griot street beggers started to beg of the crowd. One dropped a scarf in my lap, I handed it back, and she gave it back me. An older gentleman sitting next to me said to me that because I had participated in the praising of Alieu’s sister, the griot thought I understood. I’m still not sure what it was I was thought to understand, but I dropped a small coin in her hat. She looked at me with disgust and walked away. This brought on laughs from those around me, and I apologized to the man asking if I should have given more. He laughed and said that was “perfect” and that it was time for the griots to go.

With this feeling of public humiation and along with earlier being jovially “confronted” by the grandmother of the bride for a contribution towards the cost of the reception (in standard etiquette I should have sought her out and made my contribution discreetly, although the “confrontation” was in good spirits), I felt completely ill at ease. But to my surprise, it actually seem to make everyone more at ease with me. I joined with some of the brides family for dinner which is served on a large platters on small tables with everyone pulled around shares it directly from the platter. I met many of Alieu’s siblings, cousins, and five year old son. Eventually the bride arrived and while everyone was seated she went through and shook each person’s hand. Only close female family members stood to hug her briefly. The formality of the bride greeting was balanced by lots of wedding crying.

The emphasis on money in this ceremony paired with the sense any American has of personal comparative wealth to West Africans made me feel uncomfortable with transactive nature of the evening, but I can understand the differences as cultural. I got two take home dinner plates out of the whole deal, so I cannot complain. Another thing that was uncomfortable and hard to understand was a practice where some of the female members of the brides family dressed in simple clothing and straw hats acting out the role of “slave” to do the necessary chores during the celebration. When we arrived some were washing up and during the celebration others where cleaning up dishes etc. They each were playing a character, some would do a little jigg and bow to other family members, others would exaggerated the hard physical nature of their work by playing a sore back or sweaty brow then laughing it off. It was explained to me by one that she was playing slave because back when they had slaves, the slaves would be doing this work, but now they must do it themselves. She was giving her slave work to the family … for now. I would see her later in the evening in a fine and colorful boubou, no longer playing the slave.

I did not bring my camera to the wedding, and I am glad I did not. Most family and guest did not, and they hired a videographer to do a recording, so hopefully Alieu can get me a copy or snippet. I do wish I would have pictures to share, but this narrative will have to suffice. Like many architects, I prefer not to have people in my pictures. Aside from the polaroids posted in this blog, I have been focusing my efforts in that architectural documentary way. It was nice that Alieu gave me this opportunity to balance out my experiences.