Hello everyone, I hope you’re doing well and that the polar vortex hasn’t been hitting too hard! To those in the midst of finals, wishing you nothing but good vibes, the end is near! This weekend, I had the opportunity to leave Dakar for the first time since my arrival and traveled to Kaolack for two nights in honor of le Gamou (the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday, also called the Mawlid in Arabic). As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, most Senegalese Muslims belong to one of several brotherhoods. In honor of le Gamou, people travel to different cities throughout Senegal to celebrate the holiday, depending on the brotherhood. For example, those who are followers of Ibrahima Niasse (a branch of the Tijaan brotherhood) travel to Kaolack. I tagged along with several members of Aby’s extended family for the long weekend.
Kaolack is the capital of the Kaolack region and is located in the peanut basin, about 200km south of Dakar in the direction of the Gambia. To get there, we drove on the national tollway and then exited onto the regional highway for the latter half of the journey. Even an hour outside of Dakar, the difference in terms of infrastructure becomes apparent. We passed by towns and villages of varying sizes, salt fields, and a diverse range of livestock (camels, donkeys, cattle, sheep, goats, etc).
Upon arrival in the city of Kaolack itself, we paused briefly to let the motorcade of President Macky Sall pass by on its way out of town before heading to the house. The next two days were spent wearing traditional clothes, relaxing, eating, and visiting with family and friends. I didn’t end up going to the mosque, but did see some of the city when we went out and visited some other members of the extended family. It was great to see a new city and spend some time in a new place for a few days.
In terms of my project, I’ve been lucky to attend several different events related to migration over the last couple of weeks. The first was a colloquium organized by UCAD’s philosophy department about the impact of neoliberalism on the relations between Europe and Africa. I didn’t attend all three days of the event, but sat in on some round tables about agriculture, climate change, and migration. The second was a workshop organized by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants and the UN Human Rights Council West Africa office. The event focused on finding strategies to enhance migrants’ access to their legal rights, specifically in a West African context. The third event was a workshop sponsored by the Organisation Internationale pour les Migrations and was a conclusion of a two year program focused on the relationship between local government authorities, migrants, and community development.
The final event was a community mediation session between different fishing communities in Yoff that Joseph (one of my MITRA classmates) and I were invited to sit in on. I’ve also been doing a few more interviews and getting organized for my fieldwork. As of right now, I am planning to travel to the Senegal River Valley in mid-January and spend a total of 18 weeks in two different sites, the villages around Bakel and around Matam. More details to come!
Last weekend, Dakar Ultimate organized a trash clean-up at the Plage de Yoff followed by Dakar’s first ever beach hat tournament! Even though beach frisbee is always a bit of a struggle in terms of sand and wind, the setting was absolutely gorgeous and the opportunity to jump in the ocean between games is not something that I’ve gotten to do very often. Brenna and I also visited the tailor and placed my first order of clothes made out of wax fabric. I am very excited to see the results, which should be arriving sometime this week.
Other highlights since I last posted include Shane and I attending a photo exhibition about the wives of West African migrants, Dakar Farmer’s Market (which made me very nostalgic for Madison), and a trip to the Foire Internationale (essentially Dakar’s classier answer to a state fair) where I bought more fabric (from Ghana!) and met some vendors from the region of Tambacounda (where Bakel is located).
Gros bisous to all and thanks for reading!